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Here's an update on Glenwood Elementary's Mandarin magnet program


Students from Glenwood Elementary School’s Friends of Chinese Dual Language program play outside of the heavily attended Chapel Hill- Carrboro City Schools meeting on May 17, 2012 about dual language.

The Mandarin Magnet Implementation Committee presented the future of Glenwood Elementary School's Mandarin magnet program during a Board of Education meeting on February 7.

Formed in December 2018, the Mandarin Magnet Implementation Committee strives to address education issues in the program concerning overcrowding, the lottery entry process and foreign language in elementary school/Mandarin language development and support within the district. 

The committee is comprised of 14 members, including Chinese and English dual-language teachers, traditional teachers, a student service representative, administrators and two parent representatives.

Jessica O'Donovan, assistant superintendent for instructional services at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the Spanish and Mandarin dual-language programs offered in different schools in the district have been around for about 20 years. She noted there are some issues that need to be solved, specifically citing the overcrowding problem, but she is optimistic about the future. 

“This is a district that prides itself in offering families different choices of an enriched educational model, with dual-language being one of them,” O’Donovan said. “There’s a lot of challenges we receive because that building has been overcrowded for the last few years, and we are trying to address the overcrowding while also building the highest quality programs and being fiscally responsible.”

Yong Cai, an associate professor in UNC's Department of Sociology, has a child enrolled at Glenwood. Cai attended the previous meeting the committee held on January 29, when they proposed an expansion to the program. Under this proposal, instead of having a full magnet program, Glenwood would have some of their students taking traditional foreign language classes starting in kindergarten, while keeping the Mandarin dual-language immersion program for others. 

“I think it’s a compromise," Cai said. "Basically, the Mandarin program more or less stays the same, but it will make Glenwood, the school, better integrated. In the school right now, there is a very strong tension between the traditional track and the dual-language track. In my view, it’s not ideal, but it’s a reasonable compromise."

Kristie Mather, co-chairperson of the Mandarin Advisory Committee, said the number of kids at Glenwood was exceeding capacity and a magnet school is a solution to control enrollment because it sets a limit for the number of children entering the school. 

“The administration appears committed to some kind of a plan that will permanently solve the ongoing overcrowding problem at Glenwood Elementary, and that’s a good thing, ” Mather said. 

Cai said even though the plans for dual-language programs at Glenwood are still under development, he really appreciates the effort and commitment the committee has made. 

“I think it’s important for the school district to have the vision. I think I appreciate their vision — their willingness to invest in the program, “ Cai said. “And this is one of the first in public schools in the country, and it’s becoming much more popular right now, much more widespread and adopted by many other school districts.”

Further committee and board meetings will discuss the future prospects for the magnet program over the next couple of months. The committee is set to present a draft implementation plan to the Board of Education on April 18 and cast votes for the plan on May 2.


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