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Glendale school officials address dual-language immersion programs

September 19, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Glendale school officials this week proposed plans for addressing dual-language immersion issues at Monte Vista Elementary and Verdugo Woodlands Elementary, where the programs are projected to expand beyond the current capacity of the two schools.

The popularity of Monte Vista’s Korean program drove officials to determine how they would expand it to the fifth and sixth grades. This week, Supt. Dick Sheehan recommended that the district keep the program at the school, but add two new bungalows to the seven-acre campus.

Many parents have voiced support for keeping the program at Monte Vista, rather than moving it to another school. But in order to maintain the two Korean classes for every grade level, the student population will increase to about 830 students.

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One resident, Allison Wilt, who lives near the school and whose children graduated from Monte Vista, spoke against keeping the program there.

“I’m stunned that you would consider adding another 150 more students to a neighborhood school without even thinking about what the impact is going to have on our already saturated traffic in our area,” she said.

Although the school board will not vote on the matter until Oct. 1, school board members tentatively agreed with maintaining the program at Monte Vista.

“Monte Vista has enjoyed a wonderful smallness for a while,” said school board member Mary Boger. “But to make our schools viable, we need to populate them with the number of students with which they were built to house.”

Parents of Verdugo Woodlands students have also advocated for keeping Japanese classes at the school, instead of moving the program to another school all together.

But maintaining two classes at Verdugo Woodlands would stretch the school’s population to more than 900 students when district policy aims to keep elementary school populations no higher than 800 students. Verdugo Woodlands currently houses 812 students.

Complicating things further is the school’s layout, which encompasses just 5.6 acres and is divided by a wash.

Sheehan this week recommended that the district offer only one Japanese class per grade level from kindergarten through sixth grade at Verdugo Woodlands, but begin another Japanese dual-language program at another school.

Parents said they supported the direction. Board members, who will also vote on the Verdugo Woodland plan on Oct. 1, said they agreed in principle as well.

“We really believe that the best solution for our school is to downsize our program to one class,” said parent Glen Marhevka.

“As much as I’d like to say it could be a great situation to move the whole school at once, I think this would be a better transition for our students. It’d be less stress on our students.... It makes them more successful by not moving them to another school.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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