Middle-school students at La Entrada School have a new option for language studies next school year: Mandarin, whose popularity in American schools is on the rise because of the increasing importance of China in the realm of world powers.
La Entrada Principal Larry Thomas said he is moving at a brisk pace to develop the pilot program and hire a teacher for the new course, approved by the Las Lomitas School District board in March to begin in the fall.
"There are plenty of kids signed up," he told the Almanac, noting that about 22 incoming sixth-graders are ready to learn the language, with fewer seventh- and eighth-graders signed up.
Mr. Thomas presented a proposal to the board in January, stating that parent interest in offering Mandarin at the school has grown in recent years. A staff report cited "China's rapid emergence in the world's economic, cultural, and diplomatic arenas" as factors making Mandarin a desirable language for children to learn.
The new program is being structured to prepare students to enroll in a second-level class in high school. Mandarin is now on offer at Woodside and Carlmont high schools in the Sequoia Union High School District.
Superintendent Eric Hartwig told the Almanac that adding Mandarin to the language offerings wouldn't entail "a big financial investment," given that student enrollment is growing significantly and more teachers are being hired for the next school year anyway to accommodate that growth.
La Entrada, the district's 4-8 school, located in Menlo Park, already offers Spanish, French and Latin in its world language program.
The Mandarin class will be a one-year pilot program for the 2011-12 school year. If it is successful, the principal plans to ask the board to approve a fully developed three-year course and curriculum, according to a staff report.