I could start this letter out by telling which “program” my child is in, but he’s not in a “program;” he is a Riverside Elementary School student!

I say this because our school is just that: it’s a school. We are one school. My second grader does activities in both second-grade classrooms. He goes on field trips with the second graders. He does art projects with the second graders.

I have been to the last two meetings, on March 6 at Riverside and the board meeting on March 7. As I looked around the room, I did not see a division of “Spanish program” and “English program;” I saw parents and kids sitting with each other. Talking, hugging, crying and holding each other’s hands.

I know many of the children, parents and staff at Riverside, and I can tell you that the programs are mixed together. Not because we needed to do that, but because we are one school and we don’t see a division. Our children don’t see or know a division. They know their school. They know their friends. They know the value of their education.

I have walked through the halls of our school. I have sat and listened to children teaching each other. I have heard children helping each other, both in English and in Spanish. I have seen this cross over into both “programs.”

I have heard that El Puente/Milwaukie is two schools in one building. This makes me very nervous. Neighborhood children would be separated, not just from their friends in their class, but also from their more than 300 friends in their school.

Our teachers at Riverside talk to each other. The children are not just learning Spanish; they are also learning English. Not just the “native Spanish speakers,” but the English children are also learning the English language. How to read/write in both English and Spanish. To have a Spanish teacher only is not right. Our children are learning English just as much as they are learning Spanish.

If the School Board places them in a program and separates them from other English-learning children, we are putting a stop to their learning progression. By having the classes do activities together, we teach both languages, which will be the best outcome for our children, our community and our future.

Jessica Cheyne is the parent of a second grader who attends Riverside Elementary.

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