The Portland Public Schools’ Dual Language Immersion Programs staff held a community meeting at Harrison Park School yesterday evening (12/3/13) on proposals to expand Mandarin immersion programs. The meeting was well attended (see photos). There was a presentation in Mandarin (I was on headphones for (very bad) simultaneous translation into English) by PPS staff on dual language immersion programs followed by lots of questions from the audience and responses from PPS staff in both Mandarin and English.
PPS staff announced:
(1) Recommendations from the Dual Language immersion staff to PPS Superintendent Smith on proposed immersion expansions will now be made by mid-Janaury, a change from the previous timeline of by Christmas break.
(2) A Mandarin immersion program will not be started in SE Portland until 2015. All the SE schools are now overcrowded. It will take a year to find space and, if needed, to get Kellogg school fixed up and useable. PPS is looking at overcrowding in all of SE and will include a Mandarin immersion expansion (two strands) as part of the plan to alleviate overcrowding in 2015.
(3) PPS may open a Mandarin immersion program at the pre-school or headstart level. From further discussion with PPS immersion staff, no decisions have been made as to where, who gets in, or how it might link to kindergarten Mandarin immersion programs. All options are still open.
(4) A community meeting will be held December 17th, 6 pm, at King school on opening a two strand Mandarin immersion program there in 2014.
(5) Some kindergarten slots at the Woodstock Mandarin immersion program for 2014 will be reserved for native Mandarin speakers (or Chinese speakers or ethnic Chinese?)
Many in the audience had young children and were frustrated, even angry, that it was so difficult to get their children into a Mandarin immersion program. They did not understand why a Mandarin immersion program could not be opened at Harrison Park next year. Or why King might get one next year even though it was too far for them to go. There was outrage over how hard it was to get into Woodstock, with one woman saying “we can’t afford to buy a house in Woodstock. It is too expensive!”