Special to the Almanac
A standing-room-only crowd of parents and proponents of starting a Mandarin immersion program in the Menlo Park City School District next fall failed to get the support of the district’s school board at its meeting April 24.
Board members heard a presentation by Carol Cunningham, a district resident who has organized support for a program in which students would have at least half their classes in Mandarin, similar to the district’s existing two Spanish immersion programs. Ms. Cunningham said she represents 120 families and 160 students. They asked to have one Mandarin kindergarten class begin next fall.
Only one parent, Todd Brahana, spoke against the program, asking that it be put off until problems with the existing Spanish immersion programs can be worked out.
“My concern is that until you figure out hiring and teacher support, adding Mandarin before the Spanish is stable is going to put the entire program at risk,” he said.
Board members did not vote on the concept of a Mandarin immersion program, but clearly do not support starting a program this fall.
“I would like nothing better than to say go,” said board member Terry Thygesen. “But I know it’s simply not something that the district can do at this point in time.”
Ms. Cunningham said research has found multiple benefits of a bilingual education, including preparing “our children to thrive in the complex global economy.” She presented the board with research showing that bilingual education has cognitive benefits. “Bilingualism is very good for the brain,” she said.
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