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San Diego Unified Partners With Baja Schools As More US Kids Enroll South Of The Border

Children and their families take an adaptation course at the Binational Progr...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Children and their families take an adaptation course at the Binational Program for Migrant Education in the northern border city of Tijuana, Mexico, March 1, 2012.

Schools in Baja California are seeing more new students from the United States than from Mexico. Now, the San Diego Unified School District is partnering with those Baja schools and the Mexican consulate to better serve those students.

San Diego Unified Partners With Baja Schools As More US Kids Enroll South Of The Border


Marcela Celorio, Mexican consul general in San Diego


More than 2,000 U.S.-born children have enrolled in Baja California schools since the U.S. presidential election, according to the San Diego Unified School District. That is nearly triple the number of Mexican children enrolling, and a major strain on a system that does not have the space or materials to educate them.

That is why San Diego Unified has partnered with the Department of Education of Baja California and the Mexican consulate in San Diego. It is working to smooth the transition for its former students.

“It is an issue when we think about interrupted education and how that will impact students — and technically, you know, U.S. citizens,” said Stan Anjan, director of the district’s Family and Community Engagement Office.

Many have moved because their parents were deported, lost jobs or had a family emergency.

RELATED: Deported Students Find Challenges At School In Tijuana

Anjan said English-speaking students entering public schools in Mexico experience full immersion, unlike Spanish-speaking students in the United States, who start out in special classes for English-learners.

He said there are other things do not translate either. A U.S. student with a “4” on his or her report card is a high achiever, but in Mexico, a “4” means failing, Anjan said. He said he has heard of students being placed in lower grade levels because of the misunderstanding.

The differences add up to a rough transition.

“We are seeing an influx of students transitioning back and forth from U.S. to Mexican schools and vice-versa, experiencing significant culture shock that has a large impact on their education,” said Baja California’s Secretary of Education, Miguel Ángel Mendoza González, in a press release.

RELATED: To Attend School, Young U.S. Citizens Who Live In Mexico Cross The Border Daily

The partnership plans to pair up three San Diego kindergarten teachers with their counterparts in Mexico to troubleshoot inconsistencies between the school systems, improve communication and record sharing among schools, and bridge inconsistent curriculum so students are less likely to skip a beat when moving between systems.

San Diego Unified officials plan to travel to Mexico in May. The teachers will follow at a later date, but much of their collaboration will occur online, Anjan said.

The district also plans to develop informational materials that parents can access before making a move to either side of the border.

The phenomenon, while more acute since the election, is not new. The district has always had students who leave the country for an extended period of time and later return. The district says the partnership is an investment in children who may likely return to San Diego schools.

“Diversity is one of our core strengths as a school district and a city, just as bi-national students make our schools stronger, it is our job to provide them with every opportunity to achieve educational success,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten in a press release.

The district recently caught heat from a small group of protesters for catering to immigrant families at a time when some 1,700 staff could be laid off. The district has worked to ease fears about immigration enforcement at school sites, rolled out an anti-Islamophobia program, and voted to support a state boycott of border wall contractors.

San Diego State University already has a similar partnership. Students in its Department of Dual Language and English-Learner Education have long collaborated with teachers in Mexico. The partnership has grown stronger in recent years as the influx of U.S.-born students requires Mexican teachers to seek training in bilingual education.


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