McKinley Elementary School in Santa Barbara will move to a dual language immersion school in the 2021-22 school year.

“It’s high time, Santa Barbara, for us to put these programs in place and start with the schools that have a tremendous need for biliteracy because English-only and English submersion programs have replaced a language resource for your community that’s going to be very hard to recapture in the life of a child,” said Rosa Molina, a Santa Barbara resident and executive director of the Association of Two-Way & Dual Language Education.

Under the model, at the elementary level, pre-kindergarten through first-grade students receive 90 percent of instruction in Spanish and 10 percent in English. Throughtout their elementary years, there is a gradual increase of English instruction until fifth grade, when 50 percent of the day is spent in each language.

The program will start with transitional kindergarten/pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes.

“I really feel that as a board we can support and contribute to all of our students, all of the students in our district becoming multilinguals,” said Rose Munoz, a Santa Barbara Unified School District board member.

Molina said that a child who is bilingual and biliterate has an academic advantage over time. 

“Answer the question about bilingualism and biliteracy as a 21st-century skill,” she said. “That is where you are headed, and that is a great gift to the community.”

The board’s vote on Tuesday night was 5-0.

More than 450 school districts across California have dual language immersion sites. In Santa Barbara, Adelante Charter School has long had a successful dual language immersion program, with years of consistent waiting lists.

Superintendent Pushes for Food Service Layoffs

In one of his last acts before departing the district on June 30, Superintendent Cary Matsuoka pushed to lay off about 20 food service employees because he said the program is over-budget. 

“Recommending layoffs is never a fun task, but it is an important question for the board,” Matsuoka said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We really are asking the board to take action tonight to begin the layoff process.”

He said that for the past two years, the budget problems with food services have been unfolding. The district has 123 food services employees and one manager. Matsuoka said he wants to cut employees and increase the number of management positions over time. Eventually he wants to lay off another 10 employees, to save about $1.26 million annually.

Board president Laura Capps urged the board not to take action Tuesday night because it would be insensitive and damaging to do so during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, when so many people are already struggling with economic hardship.

“I believe layoffs should be the last resort,” Capps said. “This doesn’t feel like the last resort. If we lay people off now, they are not going to find another job.”

Matsuoka showed frustration when the board wanted to delay the vote. He slowed his speech down to the board and said that taking action is an essential function of managing a school district. 

“I need us to take action at some point,” Matsuoka said. “We have brought this to you in December, in February, we know there’s a problem. We’re bringing it to you tonight. At some point, I am asking, when can the board take action? That’s what I need. That’s what we need.”

Capps noted that even though the issues with the food service budget have appeared before on agendas, Tuesday was the first night that specific layoffs were recommended.

“We’re in a new reality,” Capps said. 

Board member Kate Ford also urged the board to wait before voting. She also said that the reporting of recommending the layoffs “had a point of view” that she did not appreciate.

“The point of view to me seemed to be negative about the food service workers,” Ford said. “I personally would like to think more about this and make sure I have asked all the questions I want to ask before voting on a restructuring plan that seems to have a lot of stuff thrown at the wall. Yes, we have to be fiscally responsible, but I am just wondering if we can be as disciplined about this as we have about other things.”

The board agreed to put off a vote until May 12. 

Ford told Matsuoka to make a list of actions other than layoffs and present them at the next meeting. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.