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Board to hear first report on language immersion

The first report on language immersion beginning at the elementary level suggests that 40 percent of parents would be interested in using the model, which would be enough to maintain one class at each school. Earlier this year, parents petitioned the school district to begin looking into the option, and the board asked the Program Committee to begin the long process of studying the possibility.

'The importance of language instruction is something we all agree on. The question of how to get there is something that will take a great deal of time and study before we come to an action,' said board member Linda Brown at a June meeting.

The committee will present four options of language immersion models to the school board in January. They favored two of them, though their preference would offer one immersion class at all nine elementary schools beginning in first grade. The second option would offer district-wide 'strands' of immersion classes beginning in kindergarten at between one and four elementary schools.

Other options are a magnet school - such as Ainsworth Elementary's Spanish immersion program in Portland - or an international school that offers multiple language immersion programs in one building - such as The International School in Portland.

As soon as the district would choose a plan, however, it would have to hire bilingual teachers while simultaneously reassigning monolingual teachers.

Back in June, 13 parents testified to the board of their reason for wanting immersion. The group is headed by Sarah Howell, a parent of future Forest Hills students, who also wrote up a 15-page proposal of a personal study that she did on the feasibility of an immersion program in Lake Oswego. The proposal was used in the creation of this first report.

'The political will exists to get these programs up and running,' said Howell.

She also spearheaded a petition, which has 132 parent signatures - some of who come from diverse backgrounds either having grown up overseas or working with businesses worldwide.

Some of those parents are willing to move to Portland to be able to send their kids to Ainsworth Elementary in Southwest for Spanish or Woodstock Elementary in Southeast for Chinese.

Other districts that already offer immersion are Beaverton, Canby and Forest Grove. Tigard-Tualatin is considering adding dual Spanish immersion at Bridgeport and Metzger Elementary Schools. West Linn-Wilsonville recently rejected dual Spanish immersion in Wilsonville.