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ORANGE : District to Open Language Center

The Orange Unified School District will open a facility next week that will be one of the first stops for new students who speak a foreign language.

The Language Assessment Center, which opens Wednesday, will test students in grades kindergarten through 12 for their level of fluency in English and for academic skills using their native language, as required by state law.

Orange Unified will assess the language fluency of new immigrants as well as students from other school districts who have never taken the test. The center is expected to serve about 1,400 students this year.

Soccoro Salazar, coordinator for the center, said the facility should provide more efficient and uniform testing. The program was developed after an Orange Unified committee visited language assessment facilities in Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Anaheim and Long Beach.

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The staff includes Salazar, who is a bilingual Spanish speaker, and a full-time bilingual Vietnamese speaker.

While children are tested, a community liaison will introduce parents to the school district’s programs and policies and will provide information on health care services, immunization requirements and city agencies that might be helpful to new residents.

Salazar said the center ideally should be a place for parents who are new to the country to air their concerns and to develop a support system.

“I think it will also be a base where parents can say, ‘Gee, here’s somebody . . . to talk with us,’ ” Salazar said. "(It’s a place) where they can go when they’re in a bind with whatever problems their children might have. . . . We’re hoping they’ll be able to express their needs, and we’ll be able to help them.”

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Parents are encouraged to make an appointment for testing, but the center will also accept drop-in visits, Salazar said.

The Language Assessment Center is at the former site of McPherson Middle School, 333 S. Prospect St. The center will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to make an appointment, call (714) 997-6177.


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