Grant gives Lindsay, Woodlake funds to help youngest English learners

Studies report the pandemic disrupted early education for dual language learners at a higher rate than English speaking students

SACRAMENTO – Lindsay and Woodlake were among five Central Valley school districts to receive a portion of $4 million to support dual language learners from preschool through third grade.

Dual language learners, served by 80% of early education programs in California, were disproportionately impacted by the mass disruption of education brought on by the pandemic. Eight in 10 dual language learners reportedly faced disruption in their early education program caused by COVID-19, a higher rate than learners who solely speak English.

For Lindsay Unified School District, these numbers ring true as school leaders are mobilizing every resource, from meals and mental health services, to wifi and devices, to support its 451 pre-kindergarten learners and their families, most of whom are native Spanish speakers, who started the school year on Aug. 12.

Cheri Doria, director of preschools for Lindsay Unified, said the district will receive $200,000 per year for three years as part of the grant. Doria, who oversees preschool programs at all five of Lindsay’s K-8 schools, said the money is two-fold as it will help restore some funding cut from Healthy Start, Lindsay’s family resource center which helps families with food, clothing, case management, parent education classes, and a diabetes program, and English learner curriculum. The teaching piece is part of the Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) model designed to help early education teachers develop language and literacy skills in students from preschool through third grade.

“It is imperative that we all understand and adequately address the struggles of dual language learners, ensuring that learning facilitators [Lindsay’s term for teachers] receive the best training possible, and provide DLL parents with the support they need,” Doria said. “The new school year brings the added uncertainty of COVID-19 and those parent fears add to the constant challenge of language barriers. This grant funding allows us to implement a hybrid model of support, empowering us to provide learning facilitators, DLLs, and families with the education, support, and resources that ensure future success for not only each child, but for the entire community.”

As multiracial and diverse communities now represent the majority in California, according to the recently released U.S. Census, the James B. McClatchy Foundation (JBMF) is heeding the call to support early education and districts like Lindsay Unified at this critical moment in time. With a mission to champion dual language-speaking children across the Central Valley, the foundation announced Sept. 2 its award of another $4.1 million in grant funding for Central Valley school districts and partnerships. These are grant partners that have proactively placed a priority on early learning programs in their organization strategic plans and in accordance with statewide policies. Through this funding, they will be able to further invest in young dual language learners and enhance their early educational journey.

“We are pleased to partner with JBMF in supporting the youngest learners across the Central Valley,” says Steven Kellner Ed.D., director of program sustainability and growth for California Education Partners. “Our Pre-K to 3rd Grade Coherence Networks, focused on early math and early literacy, will help districts support students by connecting quality preschool to top quality elementary education.”

Earlier in 2021, JBMF also provided funds for the Emerging Bilingual Collaborative (EBC), joining the California Community Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Silver Giving Foundation, and Sobrato Philanthropies, as co-funders, working together to strengthen the skills, knowledge, and capacity of California educators to more successfully support DLLs and English learners in pre-K through third grade.

All grants are part of JBMF’s Growing Strong Learners initiative aimed at helping young dual language students thrive in their early education programs and enter Kindergarten at the same level as their native English-speaking peers. In 2020, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District received funding for bilingual outreach aides and to develop a research-based home visiting program. The foundation, formerly known as the Central Valley Foundation, was founded in 1994 by Susan and the late James B. McClatchy who together envisioned an organization that builds brilliant futures in California’s Central Valley through support for English Learners and First Amendment protections of free speech, freedom of expression, and a free press.

“These grants are a crucial part of our larger strategy,” says Heather Bernikoff, JBMF’s program officer for education. “They each complement and expand upon one another advancing us toward our audacious goal of supporting DLL students, their families and the educators who work with them across the entire Central Valley. It is a large goal, but with the partnership of districts, nonprofits, County Offices of Education and other funders, we intend to reach it.”

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