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2020 Mandarin Immersion School Update — 327 schools, up 22 from last year

June 29, 2020
The 1981 opening of the Chinese American Bilingual School in San Francisco, now known as the Chinese American International School. CAIS was the first Mandarin immersion program in the United States.

There will be 327 Mandarin immersion schools in the United States in the fall of 2020. That’s 22 more than last year and a remarkable increase from the 235 of just three years ago.

The increase comes from school districts building out from grade school in to middle and high school, a small but growing group of Catholic Mandarin immersion programs, several new charters and multiple school districts nationwide continuing to implement Mandarin immersion either because parents are asking for it or to fill schools with empty seats.

For the 2020-2021 school year, there will be 34 charter schools, 54 private and 239 public.

The vast majority of programs are a strand in a school with other strands, almost always an English-only school program.

The number of schools being added yearly is not increasing at the rate it once did. In the fall of 2018 a total of 34 new Mandarin immersion schools were added nationwide. That’s the largest number ever added in a single year, with only 2012, when 33 were added, also hitting the above 30 mark.

In the fall of 2019 I am aware of 20 schools being added, and another three to come online this coming fall.

There are two caveats to this. The first is that I’m not always aware of new programs or schools being added until later. It’s only when they begin to generate news or pop up on lists of immersion schools or parents or staff at the school contact me that I being to add them. For example, St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Flushing, NY. Launched a Mandarin immersion program in 2013 but I only found out about this spring when an article appeared in the a local news site.

The second is that given COVID-19 and the extreme financial hardship is it likely to impose upon many districts, it’s unclear whether proposed programs will in fact be launched or not in the coming two years. Time will tell.  

New programs

An example of the build-out is Fremont, California, were the first cohort of students reached high school as part of their Mandarin program which began in 2010.

Last year Fremont had 14 Mandarin immersion classes; two each for grades kindergarten through sixth grade at Azevada Elementary School and two seventh and one eighth grade class at Hopkins Jr. High School. There are also 17 students enrolled in the 9th grade at Mission San Jose High School.

In total, about 400 students are in the program. District officials have agreed to add two more Kindergarten classes, meaning that when the program is fully built out K – 12,  it could include as many as 1,100 students.

Fifer Middle School in the Caesar Rodney School District is a continuation of the program that began in Simpson Elementary in 2013. The first middle school class,6th grade, began in 2018.

In Baton Rouge, parents have finally gotten a promise from the school distrit that Westdale Middle School will launch its Mandarin immersion program in 2020-2021. This is the continue of the program at Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet, which launched in 2013.

And in Miami, the Centner Academy launched in the fall. It is a private K- 8 school which which began with a preschool and Kindergarten.

Parents in Carey, North Carolina have proposed a new charter school to serve the growing interest in language immersion programs in the Research Triangle Area. The CE Academy: Chinese-English Bilingual Charter School in Carey, NC has a proposed launch date of August of 2021.

There was also one school closure. East Light Academy, a charter school in Charleston, SC, failed to enroll enough students and closed this past year.

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