The Palo Alto school board will discuss Tuesday evening a proposal to expand Ohlone Elementary School's popular Mandarin immersion program to Jordan Middle School.
If approved, the pilot middle-school program would begin to bridge the gap in Mandarin instruction between the elementary and high schools. Ohlone has offered Mandarin immersion since 2008, and both Gunn and Palo Alto high schools offer several levels of Mandarin, but Palo Alto's three middle schools do not.
Staff is recommending that the board model the pilot program on Jordan's Spanish immersion program, which serves middle schoolers who completed Escondido Elementary School's longtime Spanish choice program. Jordan already has its master schedule structured to accommodate Spanish class for these students, with one hour of instruction four days a week.
The pilot Mandarin program would begin this fall, with one section for sixth-graders, and increase its offerings over the next two years (one section for sixth- and seventh-graders in the 2016-17 year and one section at all three grade levels in the 2017-18 year). This cohort of students would take Mandarin as an elective in seventh and eighth grades, according to a staff report.
Ohlone's Mandarin immersion program began as a three-year pilot program in the fall of 2008 with two kindergarten-first-grade-combination classes. By the 2012-2013 school year, the program had reached its targeted size with 124 students enrolled in two classes at each combined grade level (kindergarten/first, second/third and fourth/fifth). Students are enrolled through a lottery system.
District staff's proposal closely mirrors one that a group of Palo Alto parents submitted to the board last February, though they hoped the middle-school expansion would start last fall.
One of those parents, Grace Mah, started this year an after-school Mandarin class at JLS Middle School, though it's unaffiliated with the district. The class currently serves nine students and is taught by a former Ohlone Mandarin-immersion program teacher.
Mah said Monday that she's glad to see an expansion proposal come before the board, though she hopes it could be tweaked to accommodate the two classes of Ohlone students who graduated last year and the year before. She also noted that the majority of Ohlone Mandarin students feed into JLS rather than Jordan.
In other business Tuesday night, the board will vote to approve a final charge for a new enrollment-management committee, which will be overseen by Superintendent Max McGee and will be tasked with preparing a set of recommendations by next fall that will "enable the district to design, develop and implement short- and long-term plans for accommodating projected PAUSD enrollment," the charge reads.
The committee will consist of approximately 12 people who represent various stakeholder communities (staff, parents, community members without children in the district, city representatives and local businesses). If the charge is approved, applications will go out with the goal of meetings beginning in late February or early March.
The board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 10, in district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.