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Chinese-Mandarin is at top of list

Stymied at first, District 833 officials have found a way to introduce foreign languages to elementary students. Officials are adding after-school classes this fall in Chinese-Mandarin.

The language will be offered through Community Education in before- and after-school sessions on days that match up with the availability of activity buses.

"Chinese is the language of the future," Assistant Superintendent Linda Rull said, anticipating questions of why Chinese-Mandarin was chosen as the language to be offered.

"The rise of China presents new economic, political and social realities that demand greater U.S. engagement at every level," she said. "Educators see the need to increase the number of Chinese-Mandarin speakers.

Chinese will top English as the most-used language on the Internet by the end of next year, with China expected to trade more than $1 billion a day with the United States by 2010.

The National Commission of Excellence in Education maintains achieving second language proficiency takes four- to six- years of study and is best begun in elementary schools.

Recent brain research supports beginning a second language during elementary school to take advantage of the natural process of acquiring language during these "critical years of development," according to the commission.

"We recognize the need for our children to be able to communicate in a culturally diverse community, nation and world, Rull said. The elementary school is the ideal setting for initiating the study of the Chinese language.

"It is unique and needed in a world economy," said Board Member Jim Gelbmann.

The Hutchinson School District recently added Chinese-Mandarin as an elementary school foreign language within the school day, according to Rull.

Classes, including study of culture, arts and food, will be taught for 25 weeks for $40 per student, with scholarships available for families of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches.

The cost of the program, which will be subsidized by Community Education, includes $19,500 for staff development and teachers in addition to $40,500 for instructional materials, cultural activities, art, speakers and supplies.

Five teachers will be needed and the district might have to use non-licensed teachers next year because there are fewer teachers than are needed across the state.

Before-school classes are scheduled from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. one day a week, beginning in October, at Bailey, Liberty Ridge and Grey Cloud elementaries.

After-school classes will be offered from 2:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Armstrong, Cottage Grove, Crestview, Hillside, Newport, Pine Hill, Pullman, Royal Oaks and Woodbury elementaries.

An after-school class from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. will be held at Red Rock Elementary School.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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