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[whitespace] Spanish for the Children

Willow Glen--Proposition 227 presented the San Jose Unified School District with a lose-lose situation: comply with the prop and violate a federal mandate requiring classes in Spanish for Spanish-speaking students, or follow the federal order and violate the anti-bilingual-ed proposition. At River Glen Elementary, where instruction is offered in both English and Spanish, the program will remain intact, despite 227.

But Joanne Mendoza, the district's associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, says SJUSD has taken steps to ensure that the letter of the law is obeyed.

To resolve the conflict between the proposition and federal law, the District filed a stipulation with the U.S. District Court in San Jose. The new stipulation between the district and the plaintiffs named in the consent decree calls for parents to obtain waivers allowing their children to enroll in a bilingual program, and for a restructuring of the district's bilingual-education program.

"Our bilingual programs will continue, but they will be modified and they will be more in alignment with [Prop.] 227," district spokeswoman Maureen Munroe confirms. "Our parents will request waivers as the state requires, and we will continue to monitor the progress of our students as part of our own program design."

Families interested in seeking waivers must visit the school site, attend informational meetings and observe both a bilingual and English-immersion classroom. After completing those requirements, parents who choose a bilingual classroom can file the waiver.

"This is not new for us," says Joanne Mendoza. "Under the consent decree, parents have always had the right to request a bilingual program or not."

The program has been changed to infuse more English at the earlier grades. The district will also assess students' language skills more frequently.

The district is not following one portion of Prop. 227, which requires that students spend 30 days in an English-immersion class before entering a bilingual class.

"[Our] students are currently in the program, so it would be difficult to take them out of the program, do the 30 day English-immersion program and then put them back in it," Mendoza says.

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