School districts seeking Prop 227 waivers

Oxnard, Hueneme officials say reprieve would enable administration to better serve students

A day after a judge ordered the state Board of Education to consider school district waivers of Proposition 227, the board acted quickly to begin examining those requests at its Sept. 9 meeting.

Already in line are the Oxnard and Hueneme School districts, which are seeking a one-year delay for implementing the proposition that curtails bilingual education. Their English immersion classes are up and running, but administrators said the waivers would give them time to plan better programs.

The two districts enroll close to half of the 23,000 limited-English speaking students in Ventura County schools.

Hueneme School District Superintendent Robert Fraisse said the decision comes at an awkward time.

“We’ve already started schools, our teachers have worked very diligently to develop a program for 227, and we’re sending confusing messages to parents almost every other week telling them about some new interpretation of 227,” Hueneme Superintendent Robert Fraisse said Friday. “If we have a year to plan, we will have a far better plan than if we do not, and for that reason we have to pursue this waiver.”

Richard Duarte, assistant superintendent for the Oxnard School District, said that district trustees would consider what to do next if the state board approves Oxnard’s request for a waiver. The year-round district started its new school year in early August and has been offering the English immersion classes since then.

Despite Thursday’s decision by an Alameda County Superior Court judge that the state must consider requests from three Bay area school districts, educators expect no groundswell of districts joining the 37 already in line.

“For us to do a waiver right now, it’s almost too late in the process,” said Yolanda Benitez, superintendent of the Rio School District. “At this point I’m not sure if it’s going to be beneficial. If they would have given the decision in the summer, I probably would have said do a waiver.”

Benitez and other superintendents expect thousands of parents to exempt their children from English immersion classes, as the initiative allows.

She doubts that the makeup of classes in her district will change much from previous years once a 30-day limitation for leaving children under 10 in immersion classes expires.

Duarte said administrators are analyzing the effect of the decision now, and will present their findings to the Oxnard board. Stephanie Purdy, district manager of English language development, suggested that even if the waiver is granted, it would affect administrators more than students and parents.

Purdy said the district will continue to implement the proposition and will honor parent requests for the type of instruction they want their children to have. Parents already have signed waivers for more than 3,000 children in the Oxnard district.

Parents of students who started Aug. 11 — about 60 percent of the limited-English speaking students in the district — were asked to make that decision by Friday.

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