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Demand for bilingual language development skyrockets in Santa Barbara County

GOLETA, Calif. – Across the state, Santa Barbara County has one of the highest percentages of students who struggle to speak fluent English, even more than down in Los Angeles County.

A new state grant will help students in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara counties.

Kindergartners at El Camino Elementary School in Goleta are learning in both Spanish and English as part of the campus’ dual language immersion program.

“We have a program that now offers transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, first, second and third grade students dual language immersion,” said Stephanie Hernández -Jarvis, an El Camino School teacher.

She said the classes contain students who bring Spanish, English and other languages to the classroom, all learning side-by-side as they become bilingual in both English and Spanish.

Students from homes where Spanish is spoken, also get 30 minutes every day of english development education.

But the demand for bilingual language development is rising in Santa Barbara County. 

“It means that we need to be able to expand our infrastructure which means that we need more teachers who are bilingual and have their bilingual authorization," said associate superintendent Ellen Barger of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

School administrators say right now there is a waiting list in all dual language immersion programs in the 


“Since 2016 we’ve increased the number of dual language programs in our county from 2 to 14. parents really want this for their children," said Barger.

A $10 million state grant will help students with the dual language emmersion program in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

“It’s going to be crucial so that we can continue to develop the existing dual language immersion programs … and we have done so many amazing things but as always, there’s still room for us to grow," said teacher Graciela Romero Martinez of the bilingual learning center at El Camino Elementary School.

While Hernandez-Jarvis is excited about her students’ progress, she looks forward to expanding on this dual learning adventure.

“And seeing the program grow … we have very strong numbers … our classes are at maximum capacity with 24 students in each kindergarten and tk class … and all the other classes that have students in first grade and second grade and third grade," said Hernandez-Jarvis.

Administrators hope all students, including multilingual learners, will develop the tools needed for school and beyond.

“Charlemagne said ‘to have another language is to possess a second soul’ … and so when our children can think and write and speak and read and communicate in more than one language, the opportunities for them, for their futures …are just endless," said Barger.

Article Topic Follows: Education
Santa Barbara

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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