one classroom, students are speaking in Spanish. In the classrooms
on the other side of the office, students talk to their teachers
in Navajo. In yet a third classroom, the students speak English.
sounds of the children's voices blend together in the hallway
of this wing of Sinagua High School, where Puente de Hozho Bilingual
Magnet School is located.
school is at the center of a controversial move to Weitzel Elementary
School next year. The FUSD governing board voted Feb. 24 to move
the school from SHS to Weitzel and move current Weitzel students
into four other elementary schools: Thomas, Sechrist, Killip and
Cromer (for Gray Mountain students only).
Weitzel students in kindergarten through second grade have the opportunity
to join the Puente de Hozho program if there is space available
next year by having priority over other students on the waiting
list for the school.
de Hozho is a bilingual program that teaches in dual languages.
There are two tracks, a Navajo/English track and a Spanish/English
Navajo/English track is taught as an immersion program and the Spanish/English
track is taught as a 50/50 program.
the immersion program, the students start out being taught predominantly
in Navajo -- about 90 percent of the time, then each year they are
taught more and more in English. By fourth grade they will be taught
50/50 Navajo and English and continue on in that fashion.
the 50/50 program, the class is taught half the day in Spanish and
half the day in English. To accomplish this, the students switch
classrooms and teachers halfway through the day. Also, in the Spanish/English
track, half the students are native Spanish speakers and half are
native English speakers.
the Navajo program, the majority of students have been raised speaking
English. Puente de Hozho Director Michael Fillerup said it is difficult
to find students whose primary language is Navajo. Fillerup also
is the district bilingual education director and the Title VII director.
year the school will have a new principal.
there were 179 students enrolled in Puente de Hozho on the 100th
day of the school year -- up 69 students from the beginning of the
growing enrollment, plus the school adding a grade each year, was
one of the motivations for finding a new location for the school.
enrollment for Puente de Hozho next year is about 300. It could
be more if it adds a preschool and a multi-age fourth- through sixth-grade
class, Fillerup said.
school accepts anyone, Fillerup said, but the program might not
be for everyone.
is a magnet school, so students attend it because their parents
choose it for their child because they want their child to learn
a second language, Fillerup said.
school does offer special education services to students. There
may be some students, however, who have special education needs
that are better served in a traditional school, Fillerup said.
someone cannot speak or cannot hear -- and sign language is not
one of the languages we teach -- it may not be in the best interest
of the child" to be in the program, Fillerup said.
de Hozho special education teacher Abe Mendoza said he works with
the parents, teacher and child to figure out what is best for the
have a child in the Navajo program who uses Mendoza's services,
and the child seems to respond well to learning in Navajo, Fillerup
is why they evaluate each situation to determine if it can work
with the program, Fillerup said.
who are interested in having their children in the Puente de Hozho
program fill out an application and are then put on a waiting list.
are filled in the classes based first on meeting the 50/50 ratio
of Spanish speakers in the Spanish/English track, if they are fluent
in Navajo for the Navajo/English track, then preference is given
to siblings who are already in the program, and then it is first-come,
first-served, Fillerup said.
year, however, it will be done differently because the current Weitzel
students will have priority over students on the waiting list, he
students join the program, parents need to sign a waiver for their
students to attend. The waiver is for Proposition 203, the English-only
initiative voters passed in 2000.
are three kinds of waivers: if the student is already a native English
speaker, if the non-English speaker is at least 10 years old and
if the student does not speak English and has been in an English-only
program for 30 calendar days and the child would best be served
in a bilingual program, Fillerup said.
more information about the Puente de Hozho program, call Fillerup
at (928) 527-5583