A second language is definitely an asset in the present global economy, as many parents have realized, and at Irvine, one parent, Heather King started an online petition for schools to have a language immersion program so that school children in the district can be taught Spanish and English. Heather King is a real estate agent who uses both English and Spanish when talking with her clients.
She started the petition when she learned that Irvine Unified does not have a language immersion program when other districts in Orange County already have it. About 72 languages are spoken in the district of Irvine that is why it was surprising that there were no language programs in place in the public schools.
There are already about 132 people that have signed the online petition posted by Ms. King in February. There were also various reasons why they signed the petition. One parent said she had to enroll her child in Lake Forest in Orange County because the elementary school in Irvine does not have a Spanish immersion program. San Diego resident Anita Casavantes Bradford, an instructor who had just become a faculty member at UC Irvine said she is still hesitant to relocate to Irvine because of the lack of language immersion programs in the district.
District officials’ contention
Irvine Unified’s assistant superintendent for education services, Cassie Parham supports the idea of adding an immersion program in the district that will conform to the high standards of their local public school system. However, using two languages to teach the students is quite difficult for the schools. Since the district is rapidly growing, they are expecting some 16,000 new students to enroll in the school system from today until 2023. Their more immediate problem is where to put all the incoming students.
Ms. Parham has 20 years of experience in education therefore she understands that there are many things to consider, such as where to house the language immersion program; where to find high-quality teachers who are bilingual, and whether there are enough families who are interested in such a program and would be willing to continue the program once it is launched.
Ms. Parham also explained that parents had been uninterested in such a program historically, based on the surveys done on Spanish-speaking parents in 2005 until 2007. They applied for federal grants in 2008 and 2009 to get funding for Mandarin or Korean language programs but the district failed to get them. According to Ms. Parham, they would have to figure out how to pay for the immersion program as well. She said that the program would cost roughly about $388,000 annually to cover professional learning, teachers’ salaries, curriculum development, instructional materials and equipment.