SB Unified junior high, high schools to open campuses this week
Santa Barbara Unified School District officials revealed more about its Multilingual Excellence Transforming Achievement plan during the school board meeting Tuesday evening, including transforming McKinley Elementary School into a dual-language immersion campus.
A total of 15.3% of the district’s students are emergent multilingual learners, and 64% of those learners are enrolled in elementary school.
The district uses the term “emergent multilingual learners” instead of “English learners” to acknowledge the asset of being multilingual, which the META program cherishes, said María Larios-Horton, executive director of diversity, equity and family engagement for the district.
To better address emergent multilingual learners, administrators plan to expand the dual-language immersion program at McKinley Elementary School, Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High School.
“Unequivocally and without reservation, we can say that dual-language immersion is the gold standard for all students — but especially for emergent multilingual students,” Ms. Larios-Horton said.
Dual-language immersion is offered at Adelante Charter School and was established in seventh grade at Santa Barbara Junior High this school year. Currently, 29 students are enrolled in Santa Barbara Junior High’s 2021-2022 program.
McKinley’s kindergarten classrooms will become dual-language immersion classes at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, and each successive grade will be added each school year.
The program will be open to all district elementary students with priority going to those within McKinley’s current boundaries. Students can also transfer out of McKinley if they do not wish to participate.
“No student is required to participate in a DLI program, but we cannot deny it is the program that will prepare our students best,” Ms. Larios-Horton said.
Opponents of the program are concerned about the amount of English learning that occurs in dual-language immersion.
Janeth Jimenez-Mendoza, a SB Unified parent who became a SB Unified student after immigrating from Mexico years ago, didn’t like that her textbooks were in Spanish when she was a student.
“Instead of challenging me and helping me succeed, it held me back,” she said.
Roseanne Crawford and Alice Post, who represent the Coalition for Neighborhood Schools, were unhappy that the district chose McKinley. Instead, they prefer a school outside of the downtown area.
Board member Virginia Alvarez, who was an emergent multilingual learner herself, asked how the district would measure academic success in the program.
State assessments are not positioned to measure achievement in dual-language programs, so the district would have to seek data separately, Ms. Larios-Horton said.
Superintendent Hilda Maldonado addressed the low test scores of emergent multilingual learners.
“I think it dehumanizes people when we reduce them to one metric,” she said.
She said it is unfair to test non-native speakers against English-only students. The district is exploring ways to measure its students’ success apart from the state assessments.
The district will provide tours of McKinley Elementary and further explain the new program from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 3 and 17.
Santa Barbara Junior High students will showcase the program from 6-7 p.m. April 22 via Zoom.
Officials also announced the reopening of secondary campuses, as approved by the board last week.
Junior high and high school campuses will open Thursday to half of its in-person student body, and the other half will arrive Friday.
Students new to campus are participating in orientation activities through today.
In a survey to school staff, 73% of employees noted that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination or are scheduled for an appointment, and 16% are planning to schedule. For unidentified reasons, 11% of SB Unified staff declined to receive a vaccination.
Dr. Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent, assured board members that no additional COVID-19 transmissions have occurred on campus since January.
Board members requested that Wednesdays be added as an in-person day, a proposition board member Laura Capps brought last week.
“Wednesday, when instruction ends at 11 a.m. for students, it’s just too little, in my opinion,” she said Tuesday.
Superintendent Maldonado did not yet have a plan for Wednesdays and said she’d put together a presentation for the next meeting.
Administrators are planning a summer school program to be held June 14 to July 23. Two teacher institutes and two leadership institutes will address the expansion of multilingual education and improved instruction of underserved populations.
Steve Vizzolini, director of facilities and operations, updated the board on the renovation at Santa Barbara High School’s Peabody Stadium. The board signed off on the completed project and its $1.8 million in change orders, just over the $1.5 million contingency.
The board also approved portable classroom replacement projects at Adams Elementary School with a maximum budget of $6,926,410.
Ms. Alvarez questioned a $2.2 million increase in the estimate and asked about a competitive bid process. The project has a lease-leaseback contract with RSH Construction, Inc. for the project, eliminating the bidding process.
Sidewalk and pavement repair was added to the scope of work, likely not adding up to $2.2 million in expenses, but Mr. Vizzolini argued it saves the district from tackling it in “the next year or so.”
He said it’d be “unsuccessful” to try to move heavy machinery in to replace the patios after the new classrooms there.