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San Luis Coastal considers a dual immersion program for Los Osos

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-14 21:56:43-04

Kids in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District could have more options when it comes to learning in two languages.

Pacheco Elementary School in San Luis Obispo has offered a dual immersion program for students for more than 20 years. Now, the district is considering a similar program at Baywood Elementary in Los Osos.

They say this school is a good fit because of the number of Los Osos families interested in the program, the school’s location and the principal’s background in bilingual education.

Los Osos mom Quinn Brady hoped her daughter would get a chance to learn English and Spanish at Pacheco Elementary School. However, she was one of many applicants.

“We didn’t make it in the lottery, so I think a program like this, especially in Los Osos, would just be awesome,” Brady said.

According to the district, nearly 160 students out of the nearly 600 students enrolled in Pacheco’s dual immersion program are from the coast.

The district says they aim to accept half English native speakers and half Spanish native speakers.

A lottery takes places if there are more applicants than open spots, and the district says the wait list keeps growing.

“We don’t have the capacity to take all comers to the immersion program,” said Rick Mayfield, San Luis Coastal Unified School District Director of Learning and Achievement.

Mayfield hopes to bring that opportunity to Baywood Elementary.

“For our children to be able to come back from sending them into SLO and keeping kids educated on the coast, with their siblings closer to home, would be really fantastic,” Brady said.

The program follows a 90-10 model where all students learn the regular curriculum, but in two languages.

Kindergarten is taught 90% in Spanish and 10% in English. First grade is taught 80% in Spanish and 20% in English and so forth until 4th grade when both languages are used 50/50.

“The ultimate goal is for them to graduate, finish sixth grade completely bilingual in both languages and at or above grade level in both languages,” Mayfield said.

However, some parents and kids don’t want to say goodbye to teachers who aren’t qualified to teach in two languages.

“I know a lot of teachers might get displaced into other schools and other districts and I don’t know that is fair for them,” said Tanya Walker, Baywood Elementary parent.

The principal of Baywood Elementary says they are working with staff and the district to make sure everyone is accommodated, but the district did say there will be some turnover.

The district says teachers, especially in younger grades, will still have an opportunity to work within the district or get a bilingual teaching credential with grant money.

Education experts say buses would be provided for students who need transportation.

The principal of Monarch Elementary in Los Osos says it is too early to tell what the impacts will be, if any, to nearby schools if the program is implemented.

Parents also raised questions about impacts to special education programs. At this time, the district is still trying to figure it out but hopes to keep exposing special education students to standard classroom settings similar to what they are doing now.

You can read other questions asked by parents here.

There are still a lot of details to be worked out, but the district hopes to keep coastal families in coastal schools.

If approved, the program would begin in the 2020-21 school year for kindergarten only. It would then be phased in year after year.

The district will discuss this item again with the public at its board meeting on May 21. They are expected to make a final decision this September.