Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

School board assesses immersion program sites


Real estate study affecting Spanish immersion program locale

by: VERN UYETAKE - Emmi Nelson is a student in Raquel Vasquez's kindergarten Spanish immersion class, located at River Grove Elementary School. Someday, the whole program, which also offers classes at Lake Grove Elementary, could move to River Grove.As enrollment stands, a report states there could be room to add a Spanish immersion class at River Grove Elementary School next fall to continue the expansion of the language immersion program — without building additional classrooms.

Lake Oswego School District administrators shared with the school board earlier this month a report on current and projected enrollment at River Grove and Lake Grove elementary schools where Spanish immersion classes are held. The program has been growing by one grade level per year, and the plan is to continue to expand it at that rate, eventually moving it from Lake Grove on the north side of Oswego Lake to River Grove, on the south side. But, a real estate study to be completed in April could change the future location for the program, potentially putting it at another south-side school, perhaps, someday, even one of those recently closed to address budget woes. Those schools could reopen, depending on factors including the study’s results.

In the language immersion classes, teachers deliver half of their instruction in English and half in Spanish. The first, second and third grade Spanish immersion classes are located at Lake Grove Elementary, and the program is slated to grow with a fourth-grade class coming next year and a fifth-grade class arriving in 2015-16. A Spanish preschool class, which the Community School runs, and a Spanish kindergarten class moved from Lake Grove to River Grove Elementary last fall. Some community members criticized the move.

“There are parents who have always wanted the program to remain at L.G. and continue to voice their opinion on this topic,” Director of Elementary Education Jonnie Shobaki said.by: VERN UYETAKE - Spanish immersion kindergarten teacher Raquel Vasquez said immersion programs aid brain development.

At a Jan. 27 board meeting, Shobaki and other administrators presented the enrollment report to update the board on the program transition, and the numbers indicate that all 22 of Lake Grove’s classrooms will be occupied next school year and 19 out of 20 classrooms at River Grove will be occupied. So, at least for next school year, there could be space at River Grove without installing another two-classroom portable building at the school, something the school board had decided to do last year to make room for the additional immersion classes.

“I think your chances of fitting are better at River Grove than they are at Lake Grove, but what we hope is that you will be able to make a choice here without putting another portable at River Grove, and that would be good for us because you’re still in the process of making long-term decisions,” Superintendent Bill Korach said.

Shobaki said there’s a chance River Grove may also have another open class because of a smaller third/fourth grade group next fall.

“It is a possibility at this time, but certainly not carved in stone,” Shobaki said.

The in-progress real estate study, planned for completion in early April, will help determine the value of district-owned land and buildings, which will influence the board’s future decisions on which structures to keep and which to sell.

To address budget gaps, the board has made major property decisions recently, closing three of the district’s nine elementary schools — Bryant, Palisades and Uplands — within the past couple of years to address a budget shortfall. District officials have repurposed the buildings to accommodate junior high PE classes and student activities.

Palisades and Bryant stand on the south side of Oswego Lake, and could potentially be candidates to house the language immersion program because which school buildings the district keeps depends, in part, on the real estate study.

As for the language immersion program, administrators said they will be monitoring enrollment at Lake Grove and River Grove during the next five to six months to determine the next step.

Board member John Wendland said there’s still a lot of planning to do not just for next fall but the following school year when fifth-grade Spanish immersion is added “because we’re going to come up under the same situation.”

Location aside, it’s a valuable program that can make a huge difference in students’ brain development, said Raquel Vasquez, teacher of the kindergarten Spanish immersion class at River Grove.

“It just helps kids become aware of themselves and other people,” Vasquez said. “It helps (children) to appreciate diverse cultures and people who might be different from them.”

Her 5- and 6-year-old students already can demonstrate an understanding of sentences spoken in Spanish.

“What does ‘hace calor’ mean?” Vasquez asked her class on Monday.

“It’s hot,” explained kindergartener Cecilia Hahn.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @JillianDaley.