Santa Rosa this week will begin its first official bilingual education program, the school board agreed Wednesday night after reviewing plans to comply with Proposition 227.
Even though the initiative’s authors meant to limit bilingual instruction, Spanish-speaking parents at Lincoln Elementary School in Santa Rosa obtained such classes because of a wavier provision in the law.
As of Wednesday, Lincoln officials had received waiver requests for 210 students. But the new bilingual education classes will only be in kindergarten through third grade, covering 159 students. The remaining 51 students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades were not enough to require the district to provide them with the instruction.
The district had received only 42 waivers for all of its 10 other elementary schools, including those with nearly the same percentage of Spanish-speaking students as attend Lincoln. Only Lincoln will offer a bilingual program this year.
The initiative’s supporters have argued the waivers were meant to serve a small minority of students. But Board President Hugh Futrell said regulations developed by the state give the school board little choice but to issue the waivers.
Board members questioned why so few parents at other schools had sought waivers, and school administrators explained that Lincoln has a very active group of Spanish-speaking parents who showed a strong desire for bilingual instruction. They said they had notified second- language parents at all the other schools as required by law.
The school board voted unanimously for a plan to implement Proposition 227, which voters approved in June. The initiative requires teachers to instruct limited-English students primarily in English.
In the bilingual program, teachers will divide instruction almost evenly between Spanish and English. In a regular program for second- language learners, teachers limited the use of Spanish.
The district has offered instruction in Spanish before but has not had a formal program.
This year’s program is considered temporary until the school board completes a master plan for second-language learners next year.