Several members of the public spoke in support of a Mandarin immersion charter school at Wednesday's Red Clay School Board meeting.

Public calls for Red Clay Mandarin immersion charter

Jarek Rutz Headlines, Education

Several members of the public spoke in support of a Mandarin immersion charter school at Wednesday's Red Clay School Board meeting.

Several members of the public spoke in support of a Mandarin immersion charter school at Wednesday’s Red Clay School Board meeting.

Several members of the public called Wednesday night for the Red Clay Consolidated School District to help create a Mandarin immersion charter school in New Castle County.

During Red Clay’s monthly board meeting, proponents said students would spend about half the day in English-speaking classrooms and the other half in classrooms where the instructor exclusively uses Mandarin.

Parental support for Mandarin immersion charter

Kelli Carrubba, a mother of two students in Red Clay, brought the topic up, saying that there are many students in the district that would benefit from the Mandarin immersion charter. 

According to her, parents have already organized a non-profit and a board for the “New Castle Language School,” and a Facebook page of 118 members who are in support of the new building. 

The page was created on March 19, 2021 with the mission of “developing globally-minded citizens who have the knowledge and skills to affect positive change in our world.”

“We know that with Red Clay support, this school will be a success,” she said. “We want every child to have the opportunity to become bilingual and globally-minded citizens prepared for the ever changing world.”

Immersion programs have a proven record to improve test performance, Carrubba said, as well as enhancing cognitive skills and increasing cultural sensitivity. 

With Red Clay’s support, she said, the New Castle Language School will give students the tools they need to secure Delaware’s future, both economically and culturally. 

At the moment, only Mandarin would be taught.

Kendall Massett, executive director of Delaware Charter Schools Network, said she wasn’t yet familiar with the comments on the program from the board meeting and couldn’t discuss it.

Dayan Knox also spoke, saying people across the county would benefit from a Mandarin immersion charter. 

“There are lots of kids in the regular school district and lots of families who are interested in Mandarin immersion, but they don’t come from a single feeder pattern,” he said. “This means it’s hard to establish a strong Mandarin immersion program that runs from K all the way through 12.”

The charter, especially with the support of the district and its board, would be a way to provide a quality education to families who are clearly interested in the program without straining the resources of a single school, he said. 

Knox, who’s part of the 118 members in the New Castle Language School’s Facebook page, said he looks forward to working with officials from Red Clay to make the charter a reality. 

Melissa Bundy spoke next, sharing that she has two children at Linden Hill Elementary School, and her third-grade daughter is in their Mandarin immersion program.

However, Red Clay is phasing out this program at Linden Hill due to low enrollment, and additional students will be allowed to enter the program.

At Linden, 22.38% of students are Asian, compared to just 4.24% of all Delaware students identifying as such.

About 5% of all New Castle County residents are Asian. 

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Bundy said enrollment wouldn’t be low if the school was entirely a language immersion school.

“I know we’ve had capacity issues in the past, so I think that maintaining a school that’s a separate entity would be the way to go,” she said. 

Chris Jackson was the last to speak about the proposed charter. 

He’s a father of five children, and three of them are enrolled in Linden Hill’s Mandarin immersion program. 

“I understand that the district does not have the will to continue this program within the confines of a traditional Red Clay school,” he said, “but it should not stand in the way of those that see Mandarin immersion as a way for our children to have greater opportunities as adults.”

“As a committed parent of three immersion students, I do not believe the district has given these kids a fair shot and pulled the plug on their program for undisclosed reasons,” he said. 

Jackson is one of the parents involved in organizing parents in support of the charter. 

He said not only does the Mandarin program help children learn a new language, but it also helps them learn about Chinese culture and develop appreciation and understanding of different cultures around the world. 

“New Castle Language School will inspire students to perform to the best of their ability and be lifelong learners,” he said, “equipped with the skills needed to make an impact in both their local community and globally.”

The board swiftly moved on to the superintendent’s report without commenting on the prospective charter.

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