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More support for English learners and expanded learning opportunities are planned for the Santa Maria-Bonita School District in the coming school year, according to the latest update to the district's Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP.

Adopted at the start of the 2017-18 school year, board members last week approved the latest and final update to the three-year plan alongside the district's $222 million operating budget.

The more than 300-page document outlines specific goals, actions and expenditures to help district administrators monitor progress and student outcomes.

Roughly $50 million will be allocated to the district, with funding earmarked to improve or increase services for nearly 17,000 students across 20 elementary and junior high schools.

A specific focus will be placed on English learners, foster youth and low-income students, three high-needs student groups that comprise 92.6% of the district's total enrollment.

Last year, the district employed 20 English learner intervention teachers — one at each elementary school and two at the two junior highs with the greatest number of English learners — to provide direct instruction to students and instructional coaching for other teachers.

The district also committed to hiring bilingual instructional assistants — half-day classroom positions that provide instructional support for English learners and other at-risk students — for all kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

The district credits its investments in staffing and emphasis on meeting specific needs for various student subgroups — newcomers, long-term English learners, etc. — with increasing its reclassification rate, a designation earned when students have met local criteria for English proficiency, to nearly 26%.

An 11% jump over the 2017-18 school year, last year's reclassification rate was higher than the 21.7% countywide and 13.8% statewide averages.

Despite the improvement in reclassification, a wide gap in academic achievement remains between English learners and native speakers or reclassified students.

Essential life lessons are taught in Rebecca Borjas' kindergarten classroom. As a primary school teacher for the past 31 years, Borjas taught generations of Santa Maria-Bonita students how to grip a pencil and handle a pair of scissors, the importance of sharing and playing fair, and how to make friends.

While performance on the English and math portions of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress remained flat or went up for reclassified students or native speakers, average scores on both portions fell for English learners. 

They remain 118 points below the standard on the state's English assessment, 121 points below standard in math.

District officials plan to improve academic support for all students, including the high-needs groups, by funding more spots in extended learning initiatives, namely after-school and summer break programs, and additional opportunities for in-class intervention. 

Each school site will receive an additional $25,000 in program funding, and the district will increase summer school enrollment at participating sites.

After School Education and Safety programs at two school sites will be expanded by 20, allowing each to enroll more students who are low-income, foster youths or English learners.

Sixteen new physical education teachers for first-, second- and third-grade students will also be hired this upcoming school year, adding to the 16 already employed by the district for fourth- through sixth-grade students.

With two PE teachers based at each elementary school site, students will receive 200 minutes of PE every two weeks while on a rotating basis.

The instructional minutes will allow classroom teachers to lead in-class intervention or small-group instruction.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga

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Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.