Glendale parents question dual-language immersion program's future

Glendale officials and parents continue to debate the future of the dual-language immersion programs at Verdugo Woodlands and Monte Vista elementary schools, programs whose popularity has become a significant resource issue.

Children involved in the program at Verdugo Woodlands, which began in 2010, spend 50% of the day speaking and learning in Japanese, but the school has little space left for expansion into the fifth and sixth grades.


The Glendale school board will hold a special meeting on Thursday evening to discuss possible solutions for Verdugo Woodlands. In recent weeks, the board has considered moving the program to Dunsmore or Valley View elementary schools, or to moving all sixth-graders to middle schools. Another option would be to offer one Japanese class in each grade instead of two.

“We’ve acknowledged from the beginning — it’s a wonderful program, it has fit extremely well at Verdugo Woodlands — but we placed it at the wrong school from the start,” said Supt. Dick Sheehan during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.


District policy aims to keep elementary schools to a population of 600 to 800 students. Verdugo Woodlands currently houses about 800 students, with 200 of them in the Japanese program.

Parent Glen Marhevka, whose daughter is a fourth grader in the Japanese program and whose son is in kindergarten, is one of many parents who have urged officials to keep both the program and the sixth-grade at Verdugo Woodlands.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, he suggested that the school’s computer lab and library, which occupy two classrooms at the school, move into a bungalow that could be added to the campus.

“We do not want to set a precedent to be moving our children across town. That’s not a good thing for them,” he said.


Since parents learned that the program might not continue at the site, they created a website named “Keep VWJDL,” calling on parents to sign an online petition in support of maintaining the program at Verdugo Woodlands.

Also in question is the fate of the Korean dual-language program at Monte Vista Elementary.

Dozens of parents raised their hands when they were asked by school board President Nayiri Nahabedian on Tuesday if they attended the school board meeting to support keeping the Korean program at Monte Vista.

Parent Laura Lee likened the Korean program, also established in 2010, to a three-year old tree that she does not want the district to uproot.

“Many parents, I’m afraid, will interpret the decision [of moving the program] as sort of being misplaced, as sort of being marginalized, even if that was not in the intent,” she said.

School officials have considered adding three classroom bungalows to the Monte Vista playground, saying the school is large enough to add the rooms without comprising too much play space.

Sheehan said he would schedule a meeting with Monte Vista parents soon and offer a direction to the school board regarding the future of the two programs on Sept. 17.

The Glendale school board plans to make an official decision on the dual-language programs in October.



Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.