Board of Education approves Mandarin language pilot program

Students at Dexter Community Schools will be learning a new language starting with the 2015-2016 school year.

The Board of Education approved a pilot program that will introduce Mandarin at the preschool and elementary levels in addition to Spanish. Students will be taught one of the two languages through their early education. Which language they are taught will depend on their class year beginning with this year’s incoming class of 2023.

According to Superintendent Chris Timmis, the adding Mandarin will help staff teach Spanish better as well as add a new language and culture to Dexter’s repertoire.

“We have challenges with staffing right now…This will help alleviate some of it,” he said.

Spanish teachers currently travel between schools and spend limited time teaching. Adding Mandarin will allow the current Spanish teachers more time with their students and more consistent teaching, Timmis said.

“We’re trying to get more frequency of instruction so they can actually work on language and how to staff it,” he said.

Board President Michael Wendorf said the decision will help

“We are not doing away with Spanish,” he said. “I think this actually will enhance Spanish offerings. From my understanding of language acquisition is that the consistency and being exposed to foreign language – if not the same foreign language – is the key to early language acquisition.”

Trustee Julie Schumaker was the only dissenting vote on the board, voting against the Mandarin Pilot Program. Schumaker felt that the board had not vetted enough public opinion before making it’s decision.

“I think some parents may feel strongly that they prefer Spanish or prefer Mandarin or prefer French, whatever the case may be,” she said. “I’m reluctant to support it at this point without having parental input.”

Trustee Barbara Reed said she believed adding Mandarin would help enhance students’ education and inspire interest in learning new languages. Reed said her daughter was taught Spanish through the Dexter School system through elementary school and now is interested in French.

“I don’t feel that the early instruction really put her on a particular track, but more got her thinking about grammar and how languages work” she said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to be pigeonholed into Mandarin for the rest of their lives.”

The Board of Education will meet for it’s next regularly scheduled  at 7 p.m.on June 15 at the Copeland Building.

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