A third bilingual school could be coming to SLO County next year

A new bilingual school could be coming to San Luis Obispo County next year.

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District’s Board of Trustees is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to adopt bilingual education at Baywood Elementary School in Los Osos — where teachers would instruct in both English and Spanish.

If the board approves the idea, it would make Baywood the third bilingual elementary school in the county. Pacheco Elementary in SLO and Georgia Brown Elementary in Paso Robles are the other two campuses.

The board heard from about 20 parents in a school board meeting Thursday after an analysis of how the transition could affect budget, student performance and logistics.

A survey of San Luis Coastal parents showed that 71 percent supported expanding bilingual education to a new campus.

“I’m a graduate of a bilingual school, and it has helped me in my career and made me a more marketable employee candidate,” said Yudilia Tomsen, noting her name itself was bilingual.

Another Los Osos parent, Aiyana Udesen, wrote in a statement she hopes her daughter will be able to attend a dual immersion program at Baywood as a kindergartner in 2020.

“We totally support this idea, mostly because we believe experiencing other cultures is very important,” Udesen said. “We desperately hope that since we live in a few blocks away in the Baywood Elementary district, this will give our daughter priority for enrollment.”

Parents listen to a presentation about bilingual education at a meeting Thursday. The school district board will decided whether to add bilingual education at Baywood Elementary in Los Osos on Tuesday. Nick Wilson

Transitioning to a bilingual curriculum would cost about $144,000 annually for six years to cover additional staffing, professional learning and materials.

Dawn Addis, a district teacher who presented the staff report, said a manageable scenario would be to roll out the program one grade level at a time, meaning a new bilingual grade would be added each year, from kindergarten though fifth grade.

And some teachers could be moved to other campuses to bring on bilingual faculty.

But no current school teachers would be terminated, as their jobs are protected under union contracts, said Addis, a teacher on special assignment who detailed a 56-page report.

Data presented at the meeting shows that students at Pacheco generally demonstrate proficiency in their academic performance, often meeting or exceeding standards.

Pacheco has a waiting list of 62 students for the 2019-2020 school year, with 18 percent of wait-listed students residing on the coast.

“Some people don’t believe it can work,” Addis said. “Data shows it can work. Bilingual education shows strong, research-based, academic and other benefits, and it’s popular in the district.”

The San Luis Coastal school board discusses bilingual education Thursday. Nick Wilson

Several administrative considerations would still need to be worked out, if approved, including the mix of Spanish and English used in the classroom at each grade level.

A potential policy about how to enroll students — and whether to give priority to students in the school’s neighborhood — also still would need to be decided.

Pacheco is open to students district-wide and uses a lottery system to select students if applicants exceed space, giving equal opportunity for a spot.

Baywood parent Austin Miller said he was concerned about neighborhood enrollment and compatibility issues.

“What will the enrollment policy be before this is voted on?” Miller said. “That needs to be clarified.”

District Superintendent Eric Prater said in an email Friday that he will give a recommendation to the board that is straightforward.

“Do we proceed with planning this program or not at this time?” Prater said. “If the Board approves, a diverse planning team of Baywood staff, community/parent members, and district staff will develop programmatic recommendations based on community feedback and best practices for bilingual instruction in English and Spanish.”

Prater said the district will analyze and develop “enrollment criteria, a special education inclusion model, school capacity issues, and lottery implications over the next several weeks.”

Prater said the board, Baywood staff and the broader Estero Bay community will help inform decisions.

The meeting Tuesday is planned for Del Mar Elementary School at 501 Sequoia St. in Morro Bay, starting at 6 p.m.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.