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During Oxnard visit, State Schools Superintendent calls for more dual-language immersion classes

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KCLU
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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visited Oxnard's Juan Soria Elementary School Tuesday, to talk about dual-language immersion programs in the state. More than half of the Oxnard School District's schools offer dual-immersion programs.

Democratic State Senator Monique Limon of Santa Barbara introduces bill which would provide more funding for dual-language programs in schools.

It’s a program that’s helping public school students become proficient in two languages at the same time. The Oxnard Elementary School District is one of the leaders in the state in dual-language immersion programs, with more than half of its campuses offering the program.

One of the biggest issues with dual-language immersion programs in California is that many districts don’t have the resources to meet the demand.

The state’s top educator visited Oxnard's Juan Soria Elementary School to call for support for legislation which would provide more money for the programs.

"In many districts, there may be only one school which can offer dual-language programs, and that tends to do with the lack of resources," said Tony Thurmond, who is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Thurmond is trying to focus attention on legislation by Democratic State Senator Monique Limon of Santa Barbara, which would fund more classes in more school district.

"SB 952 would allow for for us to create a grant program that would give school districts a certain amount of funding...a competitive grant program," said Limon. "We are trying to find a way to do more of what our community is asking for."

The program has taken off in the Oxnard School District. Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Anna DeGenna says they saw the need, and made it a priority years ago. It went from classes at one school, to programs at 11 of the district's 20 schools.

Kristen Barajas teaches the English side, and Araceli Martinez the Spanish side of a dual-immersion sixth grade class at Juan Soria Elementary. Barajas says being fluent in multiple languages can help the kids with everything from their family lives, to their future careers.

"Some of the kids came into the program not knowing any English, or any Spanish," said Barajas. "The whole program is immersing kids....it just becomes second nature."

Student Valentina Perez Delgado says her mom wanted her to learn her native Spanish, as well as English, which was her father's main language. "My mom wanted me to know both of the languages, to incorporate them into my life," said Delgado.

And, classmate Nathan Salazar says while he isn't good at Spanish, he's trying to learn. "My grandparents only know Spanish...and they really wanted me to communicate with them," said Salazar. "When they put me in (the program), I was really rough, but now I speak fluent, and I can speak to my grandparents."

While the focus in the dual-immersion program in Oxnard is on English and Spanish, it’s up to school districts to address the local needs. State Schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond says somewhere else it could be Mandarin, or Vietnamese. He says some 70 languages are used in the state's schools.

Thurmond says the programs are also important for another reason. As school district struggle with the loss of enrollment, and funding due to charter schools, dual immersion could provide an attractive new reason for parents to keep a child in public school.