Elgin Area School District U-46 is moving forward with a plan to spread the high school bilingual program over three schools to ease crowding at Bartlett High School, the sole home of the program.

Administrators Monday night will outline their plan to create bilingual programs to the board of education. The program, which would help students to master English, would be offered at Larkin High School in Elgin and Streamwood High School.

According to the proposal, the bilingual program would be evenly divided among the three high schools by the 2002-03 school year.

About 112 freshmen and sophomores would begin each bilingual program at Streamwood and Larkin in the fall. Juniors would be added in the fall of 2001 and then seniors the next year for a total of about 160 students in each bilingual program.

Administrators say the benefits of the plan are twofold: Bilingual students in the northern part of the district will attend schools closer to their homes, and congestion at Bartlett High School will be eased.

Designed to hold 2,500 students, the 3-year-old Bartlett High School is 300 students over its capacity. Four hundred of Bartlett students attend the school’s bilingual program, and the majority of those students are bused in from Elgin.

“It will take many students closer to their home schools,” said Jack Fields, director of bilingual education for U-46. “I think most parents and students will be happy with it.”

However, David Dominguez, president of the Bilingual Parents Association, said parents are upset their children are being moved once again.

“It doesn’t matter where they are moving them or if they are moving them closer to their homes. It is just the movement itself because it is continual,” he said. “They may be moved two to three times in their school career. It is difficult enough to go into a brand new school, but to have to do it three or four times, that is very difficult. It puts pressure on the kids and on the parents.”

Crowding forced U-46 to move some of its bilingual elementary students to other schools in the fall.

And crowding is one of the reasons Bartlett High School houses the entire high school bilingual program.

Elgin High School was the former home of the bilingual program. But when Bartlett opened, U-46 officials decided to move it to ease crowding at Elgin and to racially balance the district’s four high schools.

Even after the program moved to Bartlett, Elgin High School’s 28 percent minority population was higher than the district’s three other high schools.

Lack of school diversity could have made U-46 vulnerable to civil rights lawsuits, officials said.

Unless enrollment numbers dramatically increase, U-46 does not plan to create another bilingual program that would again require moving bilingual students, said Area Superintendent Lalo Ponce.

Members of the Bilingual Parents Association are skeptical.

“We know that the next time there is overcrowding or an issue like that, we know which group they are going to move – it will be us again. There is no doubt about that,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez did not know if parents would speak out against the plan at Monday’s board meeting.

GRAPHIC: On the move

In an proposal to bring students in the high school bilingual program closer to their neighborhood schools and ease overcrowding at Bartlett High School, U-46 will add bilingual programs to Larkin High School in Elgin and Streamwood High School. The new attendance areas are:

Bartlett High School: The area south of Route 19 that includes Bartlett and parts of Streamwood and Elgin.

Larkin High School: The current Larkin attendance areas plus the Coleman and McKinley attendance areas.

Streamwood High School: The current Streamwood attendance area plus Lords Park and Sheridan attendance areas and the Poplar Creek subdivision in Elgin

Source: Elgin Area School District U-46

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