Bernard Eldredge to Reopen in 2013

Shuttered in 2010 because of declining enrollment, campus will now house district's dual immersion program

Students who don’t speak English are often viewed as a burden on teachers and the classroom.

But the Old Adobe Union School District has adopted an innovative model that pairs Spanish-dominant students with native English speakers, and that teachers and parents say is remarkably effective in acquiring fluency in both languages while improving reading, writing and math skills for all children.

Since starting in 2009, Old Adobe’s dual immersion program has steadily grown and attracted parents from other districts in Sonoma County as well as Marin. Today more than 150 students are enrolled with the number expected to hit more than 200 by the start of next school year, according to Superintendent Cindy Pilar.

Last week, the Old Adobe school board voted to move the program to Bernard Eldredge Elementary School, closed in 2010 due to declining enrollment.

“Many parents are recognizing that having a second language is a skill that’s very important for their children,” Pilar said. “Parents are looking for schools that are offering unique programs in addition to the core curriculum and we’re just thrilled about this program and the potential it holds for our families.”

Dual immersion begins in kindergarten with native English and Spanish speaking students in the same classroom. About 90 percent of instruction is in Spanish the first year, but it's gradually reduced so that by the time students reach fifth grade, instruction is spread evenly between English and Spanish.

And it's not just Latino parents seeking out dual immersion. 

Tracy Perlich, a mother of two, moved to Petaluma specifically so that her children could attend the program.

“I think every child in the States should be bilingual,” Perlich said. “They need to speak two languages and if you educate them in two languages, they don’t have to learn it later on…It helps them get into college, improves their chance of getting a job and is just the way of the future.”

Many other districts have been slow to take on the program, in part because of additional funding for staff development and materials in another language. 

But Cindy Pilar, the district superintendent, said the only additional costs will come from hiring a librarian and counselor for the school. (Bernard Eldredge already has a custodian, since it has been used for professional development and as a preschool site.)

The district will also be hiring a new principal to be in place by January 2013. The program will officially move to the new campus by August 2013.

Have school news? Share them with Petaluma Patch! Email Local Editor Karina Ioffee at karina@patch.com or call (707) 347-9146.

Anthony Bendik November 15, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Are STAR test results the only measure of achievement? (Let alone, the best form of assessment?) I believe that the "good spin", is a program that acknowledges the importance for ALL children to be able to learn a common core of subjects, that will allow them to go on and live fruitful and enriching lives. Dual Immersion provides an environment where ALL children can learn the basics on a level and unthreatening playing field, regardless of their socio-economic background. Basic education is not being sacrificed (sp. mikeg), but augmented with the command of a second language, a skill that can only be more valued in an ever expanding global society!
mikeg55 November 15, 2012 at 03:03 PM
To each their own. I'll keep my kids in the school with the higher test scores.
Ricksantos01 December 27, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Good Point - Mikeg.... Also Dual Immersion is generally much more expensive than traditional Std English Immersion, there are less than 150 Dual Immersion schools in California (of 9000 Elem). The teachers also get more money. So for the State and Local Education Auth, via its additional federal and state Bilingual grants. Sadly its more about political and money, than the teaching of English / Education for kids. Education should NEVER be a political football. There is a fairly well oiled California and National Bilingual Education Assoc that keeps the money flowing in. Being of Hispanic Origin myself, I am all for Learning another language but too much focus is given to Spanish in these programs and not enough to learning English (which shld be the priority). At the end of the day, that is what is most important for Immigrant and all kids (and most immigrant parents believe this as well). I learnt English via SEI as have many 100’s of thousands of others, and why the focus only on Hispanic Kids. It should NOT be the directive or responsibility of the Education department to coddle up to the Bilingual and Diversity Lobbies. Focus on teaching kids English... at the end of the day they are tested in English Also Google how expensive Dual Immersion is and the fact many Latino parent just want their kids to learn English. The problem is the Teachers Assoc are fairly strongIt always will be (until its stopped) about Money / Power & Cultural Coddling. Just my 2 Cents!
Jessica Holt January 11, 2013 at 11:19 PM
What your comments are missing while hammering on the "teach kids english" drum, is that this program gives kids who are native English speakers the opportunity to speak, read and write fluent Spanish as well as kids who speak Spanish at home the chance to speak, read and write fluent English. I know many people who are now adults who went through dual immersion programs and their English is impeccable, in fact I dare say their written English is at a higher level then many people I know who went to monolingual English schools. You should look into some hard facts (numbers) as well as talk to adults that went through the programs for themselves, it would really help shed some light on how these programs can be quite successful at raising a bilingual/biliterate workforce for our future.
mikeg55 January 12, 2013 at 06:02 AM
Great Jessica. You put your kids where you want, I'll put my kids where I want. I just wish I wasn't paying for it with my property tax.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »