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SCSQUARED halfSusanne Dachgruber, San Clemente

There have been troubling developments for families in South County that have their children enrolled in the Mandarin Immersion Program (MIP) at Bergeson Elementary school in Laguna Niguel. MIP was founded by a San Clemente parent, and in 2011, when the program was approved by the CUSD Board of Trustees, one of the stipulations was that it be accessible to all CUSD residents and therefore be centrally located. This highly successful program will enter middle school next year, but where will it go? On April 13, the CUSD district staff recommended that the program go to Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo, which doesn’t provide equal access, is the most northern of our middle schools and doesn’t allow for a feasible drop-off/pickup time between schools for families with multiple children. This will lead to families having to drop out of the program. To the relief of the 88 percent of families in the program that live centrally or south to it, the board voted 5-2 for Niguel Hills Middle School, upholding their promise of equal access. Prior to their vote, keeping a centralized location for the program received public support from Dana Point former Mayor and current City Councilman Carlos Olvera, as well as several other council members, local clubs, businesses and residents from our southern cities.
Fast forward to May 25, and, as reported, “two trustees requested the middle school location to be reconsidered, pointing to about $1 million in renovations in order to house the program at Niguel Hills Middle School.” The argument swayed the board of trustees and the policy was put on hold to be reconsidered in another six months. When CUSD is asking for an $889 million bond measure to repair our neglected schools, spending $1 million to move the Mandarin program sounds wasteful, but it isn’t clear cut for the following reasons:
1. The $1 million estimate is to fix four classrooms, not the two reportedly needed for MIP.
2. Due to declining enrollment at Niguel Hills, the program wouldn’t need the extra classrooms, thus the cost would be $0 for facilities.
3. The whole point of the bond measure is to fix our crumbling classrooms. Due to misinformation about the real costs involved, many of us are wondering if we’ll be able to keep our children in the program if it does end up getting placed in Mission Viejo. The solution is simple; the district needs to uphold its promise of granting equal access to all families and let the decision stand for Niguel Hills Middle School.

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comments (2)

  • And since there are more wealthy Chinese families in Laguna Niguel…..
    You can keep the added traffic further south.
    Newhart doesn’t need any more congestion.
    Conversely, “Immersion Mandarin” is a stupid idea.
    Students will have plenty of time to learn Mandarin or Cantonese in High School and College, or at home.
    The money should be spent on “Immersion English.”

  • @Tintin, your comments indicate a general lack of the two-way immersion concept, much less the specific CUSD program that has been in place for about two decades now. If you actually have an interest in the topic, I invite you to explore and learn before casting out wildly ignorant comments.

    While Mandarin is a newer addition (spearheaded long ago by former Las Palmas Principal Doug Kramer), the massive gains made by students that get involved starting at the kindergarten level are real and amazing. It is not really as much about learning the language (regardless of which one), as it is about engaging the parts of the brain needed for language development, much like studies have shown for music programs. High school language classes are pretty much futile in this regard, as it is too little, too late. And, yes, each student still needs to learn proper English, something TWI kids are at least as likely to as other students, if not more so.

    I will recuse myself from commenting on the current school and location discussion, as our youngest children are close to the end of the 13 year commitment. Decisions made now will have no effect on them. For those parents with kids getting ready to start their educational career, I would strongly suggest getting educated and, if there is a fit and a realization of the level of commitment, becoming involved in the program before the “Tintin’s” of the world might possibly influence decisions that could negatively affect your children.

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