OAKLAND — Oakland Unified School District is fighting anti-bilingual education Proposition 227 in court, but it is going ahead with implementing the requirements of the new state law this year.
And, according to the district, its programs for children with limited English skills will not have to change much.
“It is the law of the land, and we will comply with it,” said Atsuko Brewer, the district’s director of bilingual education programs.
“But the changes really won’t be major. The biggest hurdle — and it is a big one — is notifying parents to come into schools and hear about the new law and what their options are.”
Prop. 227, passed by California voters in June, would eliminate the state’s bilingual education program and require the state’s 1.4 million students with limited English skills to spend a year in English immersion classes.
In Oakland, 23 percent of the nearly 18,000 students with limited English skills already are in “sheltered English” immersion classes, which meet the state requirement, according to district spokeswoman Sue Piper.
Now, all limited-English students will be placed in those classes unless their parents sign a waiver allowing them to attend bilingual classes or mainstream English classes.
About 38 percent of the limited-English students are in bilingual programs, receiving instruction in both their native language and English. About 18 percent are in mainstream English classes.
Brewer is anticipating that most parents will opt to keep their children in the programs they were in last year.
The exception is children under 10, who must remain in English immersion class for at least 30 days before being placed in an alternative.
To avoid a massive shuffling in the first few weeks of school, the district is trying to get all parents to choose a program before school starts.
Meetings have been set up at the largest schools next week to educate parents about the changes.
Parents of children at smaller schools will have to deal with their schools individually.
Letters to parents in their native languages have been sent out, and fliers about the meetings have been posted in community centers to inform parents who will be enrolling their children for the first time, Piper said.
Orientation videos in Spanish, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Cantonese have been made and will be available to parents at each school.
Meanwhile, the district is heading back to court Thursday for a hearing on its challenge to Prop. 227. It joined schools in San Francisco, Berkeley and Hayward to request a general waiver from the regulations.
The hearing will determine whether the state Board of Education will consider granting the waiver, Piper said.
There was no choice but to go ahead with the new regulations while the legal issues are being decided, she said.