The San Francisco Unified School District is set to begin instruction in the Samoan language to Pre-K students at Havard. This will be SFUSD's first school in the district to offer early education instruction in the Samoan language.
“We’re super excited to bring this to the Bayview,” said SFUSD School Board Vice President, Fauugua Melinga. “Why the Bayview? Because Bayview is the home to the largest Samoan population in San Francisco,” said Melinga. “They (SFUSD Samoan students) all reside in either Portrero Hill, out in Hunters-Point or in Sunnyvale,” Melinga added. “So, myself and Chief Meeno are here today to talk about this amazing Dual-language Pre-K program that we’re getting ready to kick off.”
Vice President Fauugua Melinga joined me recently, by Zoom, along with Meenoo Yashar, Chief of SFUSD's Early Education Department and Laura Dudnick, Public Relations Manager at SFUSD to announce this new addition to SFUSD's language program.
“We have several Dual-language classrooms in SFUSD already,” said Chief Meenoo Yashar. Currently, there are four SFUSD schools that offer a Pre-K Dual Language Program in Cantonese, and six other SFUSD schools offer a Spanish Dual Language Learner Pre-K Program. Plus, Dual-language Immersion Pathway Programs are being taught at fifteen (15) SFUSD schools across the district. (For a complete list, go to:https://www.sfusd.edu/dual-language-k-8.)
But, the Leola Harvard Early Education School is the first SFUSD school to offer a Dual Language Program in the Samoan language, for Pre-K students.
According to SFUSD, there will be one teacher and 2 assistants in the new Samoan Dual-language classroom at Havard because of state requirements for Pre-K educational programs. The classroom will also hold approximately 22 students, and it will be taught 50-50.
“Fifty-percent in Samoan and fifty percent in English,” said Chief Yashar. According to Yashar, the Samoan Dual Language Pre-K teacher will use many ways (i.e songs, pictures, games, books) to teach children both Samoan and English.
In addition, Chief Yashar said, “when the Samoan language is spoken, the teacher is actually instructing the Pre-K classroom in the Samoan language. It’s not about translating. It’s actually about speaking the language. And, that’s very different because we do want students to be able to not only hear their home language, but if this is a new language for them also, it’s an opportunity for them to develop listening skills and critical thinking skills,” said Yashar.
“What students would find when they come into the classroom is a Samoan teacher who speaks the language and is of the culture,” said Chief Yashar. “They will see in the classroom Samoan written language, art, resources and materials throughout their preschool classroom weaved in throughout the art area, dramatic play area and science area, all weaved in culture and language,” adds Yashar. “We want students to see themselves reflected in our curriculum and when we start very, very early with that, as we’re doing in our Pre-K Dual language classroom, students get that from the very beginning,” said Yashar. “They see themselves in that classroom, they hear the language in the classroom and that connects to their identity.”
Meanwhile, School Board Vice President Fauugua Melinga tells us why bringing this new Dual-language program to a Bayview school is so important. “We have an opportunity right now to really uplift a specific population in the Pacific Islander community with our Samoans.” Melinga said, “as you all may know, when you talk about Pacific Islanders within San Francisco what you’re really talking about is the Samoans who have migrated here and have been in the City for over 100 years. The problem that we’re trying to address today is the inequities that have occurred within our City,” said Melinga.
Melinga, who is also Samoan added, “I grew up knowing that diversity was important. So, as a School Board member and as the Vice President today on the Board of Education, for me it’s important that our School District continue to drive diversity and inclusiveness in San Francisco,” said Melinga.
"Pre-pandemic when you talk about truancy rates, dropouts, parent engagement, this community has been at the top in terms of not good rates,” said Melinga. “So, during the pandemic we have run into situations where engagements with Samoan students, Latin students and Black families as well have been very similar,” added Melinga. “And, when you talk about what is the solution, specifically for our Samoan kids, who come from an indiginous background, we’re talking about culture, and the root of culture is really around language,” said Melinga.
Chief Yashar said, “We want to, of course, encourage our Samoan families to enroll. But, we are also very interested in families who are connected to the Samoan community, maybe through extended family, or have an interest in learning the Samoan language and culture as well to consider applying for this new Dual-language program.” Yashar adds, “The more young children are exposed to diverse languages and culture, the better their critical thinking skills are and the better they are at being global citizens, which is one of our graduate profiles as well. So, it’s part of that in terms of high school success and college and careers,” said Chief Yashar.
Do you want your child to learn or continue to learn Samoan?
Enrollment is now open for the Samoan Dual-Language Program at Havard. So, if you’re interested in enrolling your child, or for more information about the program, call 415-401-2500 ext.1000. You can also fill out the SFUSD Interest Form @ (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScodPVa6oBi2chpblOJst1ZtilK7TC57ISvtYROOEtwBwdKTw/viewform). The Leola Havard Early Elementary school is on Oakdale Avenue, just off of Third (1520 Oakdale Avenue, Room 30).
Whether your family is Samoan or not, this is a wonderful opportunity to support ancestral culture and language in the classroom and preserve the Samoan language and culture in our community. Plus, studies show, when children learn languages at an early age, they thrive and do better in school (https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/04/multilingual-preschoolers).
Currently, SFUSD schools offer 13 Language Programs at local Pre-K, K-5, K-8 and High Schools across the City. SFUSD language offerings include: Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Arabic, Italian, French, Hebrew, Latin, Vietnamese, and now Samoan (https://www.sfusd.edu/learning/language-pathways-by-language).
If you have any questions, vist www.sfusd.edu. for more information.
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