Wake schools propose a Chinese language immersion program for Stough Elementary

sbarr@newsobserver.comMarch 22, 2014 

— A Chinese language immersion program could begin at Stough Elementary School as early as this fall.

Students would take all of their core classes in Mandarin Chinese, an effort designed to encourage bilingualism as well as boost student performance in other academic areas, said Wake school officials.

The program would begin with a cohort of kindergarteners for the 2014-2015 school year and add a grade each year as students progress through the school. Beginning in second grade, students also would participate in English language arts classes.

Wake school officials proposed the program as part of Superintendent Jim Merrill’s budget plan for next year, at an annual cost of $55,000. The school board will discuss and approve a final budget in the coming months.

The proposal also recommends a dual language immersion program in Spanish at Hodge Road Elementary School in Knightdale at a cost of $45,000.

The curriculum at Stough, part of the Wake’s Global Schools program, already emphasizes world cultures, religions, literature, history and language. The immersion program would build on the momentum the school has built for taking an international perspective in all areas, said Principal Cheryl Stidham.

“We are really excited about this opportunity,” she said. “Our whole community has embraced our global theme.”

Families would not be required to participate in the program and instead would opt-in. Stidham said she hopes to fill at least one kindergarten immersion class this fall. A class typically has about 23 students.

Across the county, 11 elementary and middle schools offer Chinese in some way, but there are no other immersion programs. In addition, four high schools offer Chinese courses.

One Wake school, Jeffreys Grove Elementary, already offers a full Spanish immersion program, where all core subjects are taught in Spanish and specials are taught in English.

Principal Lisa Cruz said the program has been well received by families at the school. Now in its second year, the program includes kindergarten and first grade cohorts.

Cruz said it’s been impressive to watch kindergarteners who enter the school without speaking any Spanish become so comfortable with the language that they can express themselves in it by the middle of the year.

“I think it’s an incredible gift to give a child a second language,” she said.

Wake officials said that China is a major player in the global economy, and it makes sense for students to learn the language, they said.

Information sessions for interested Stough families will begin after spring break. More details will be available at stoughes.net.

Barr: 919-836-4952

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