Enrollment at the new school on Hartley Avenue in Eastern Patterson will top 500 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, but for now, English and Spanish instruction will be offered to kindergarteners only.
Sofia’s mother, Esmeralda Sinclair, wanted her 5-year-old daughter to learn both Spanish and English as she progresses through school.
Sinclair said it is important to have Sofia speak two languages because she herself was born and raised in Mexico, and her whole family speaks Spanish.
“My mom and dad’s first language is Spanish — and they do not speak any English,” Sinclair said. “When we go visit them, my daughter cannot communicate with them. The only Spanish they get is from me — that’s what they hear, and that’s not enough.
“I’m very excited. People need to know that (speaking two languages) is a blessing and it is a good thing.”
More than 90 families in the Patterson Joint Unified School District applied for the 40 open seats in the two kindergarten classes, where English and Spanish will be taught in a 90-10 program — lessons will be in Spanish 90 percent of time, with the remaining 10 percent in English.
Gradually, over the years, the ratio will change until the lessons are taught half the time in each language.
“Academic research has proven that students in dual language programs perform higher on the California Standards Tests compared to their counterparts in mainstream school,” said Steve Charbonneau, Walnut Grove principal. “Walnut Grove provides intervention to kids who fall behind, but in doing so, we don’t want to forget the opportunity for enrichment. And dual language is an enrichment program.”
Deminica Tufono enrolled her 4-year-old daughter, Sei Myalani, in the dual language class because she herself is African-American and her husband is Samoan, and Spanish is the second language in her household.
“I know that people in over 23 countries speak Spanish, including an African country," Tufono said. "I felt that speaking Spanish will help her when she gets older and throughout her years — just being able to communicate with people.”
Patrick Sweeney, Patterson Joint Unified School District superintendent, is thrilled about the program.
“Walnut Grove School will be an exciting place for students to learn two languages,” Sweeney said. “Steve Charbonneau is an innovative leader, and I expect great things for Walnut Grove School. The new Web site explains the cutting-edge program that the school will provide.”
Charbonneau has updated the Web site, www.walnutgrove-school.com, to reflect the changes at Walnut Grove Elementary School, 775 W. Hartley Ave., and has provided information on programs, staff and school opening day.