Wake County may add three lan­guage im­mer­sion schools

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - News/Obituaries - BY T. KE­UNG HUI [email protected]­sob­server.com T. Ke­ung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nck­hui

The Wake County school sys­tem may add three new mag­net schools fo­cused on teach­ing for­eign lan­guages in an ef­fort to com­pete with charter schools and pri­vate schools for stu­dents.

Wake County school ad­min­is­tra­tors rec­om­mended Tues­day con­vert­ing Dil­lard Drive ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools in west Raleigh to mag­net schools of­fer­ing a Span­ish lan­guage im­mer­sion theme. Ad­min­is­tra­tors also rec­om­mended con­vert­ing East Cary Mid­dle School to a K-8 mag­net school with a Chi­nese lan­guage im­mer­sion theme.

The school board will vote Feb. 18 on in­clud­ing the three schools in a fed­eral grant that it will ap­ply for to fund the new pro­grams. The district would use lo­cal funds to start the pro­grams, if the grant isn’t ap­proved.

“World lan­guage should be a part of ev­ery child’s ex­pe­ri­ence, so the fact that we’re able to ex­pand this, I think, is a great op­por­tu­nity for our stu­dents,” school board mem­ber Lind­say Ma­haf­fey said Tues­day.

Since 1982, Wake has used the mag­net pro­gram to di­ver­sify school en­roll­ments, fill un­der-en­rolled schools and pro­vide ad­di­tional educationa­l op­por­tu­ni­ties. Mag­net schools offer pro­grams typ­i­cally not found at reg­u­lar schools, such as ad­vanced arts and for­eign lan­guage cour­ses.


The ma­jor­ity of mag­net schools are in and around South­east Raleigh, which makes for long com­mutes for fam­i­lies who live in west­ern and south­west­ern Wake.

More charter schools have opened in re­cent years in fast-grow­ing west­ern Wake. CE Academy plans to open this year as a bilin­gual K-8 Man­darin charter school in the Cary area.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors said con­vert­ing East Cary would offer a district Chi­nese im­mer­sion op­tion in west­ern Wake “to keep mar­ket share.” As part of the con­ver­sion, East Cary would be­come only the sec­ond K-8 school in the district.

“Tak­ing a school like an East Cary or a Dil­lard Drive will re­sult in get­ting a lot more ap­pli­cants from these over­crowded, high so­cioe­co­nomic west­ern Wake schools,” said school board mem­ber Chris Hea­garty.

Wake has tar­geted schools who are strug­gling to be­come new mag­net schools.

The per­cent­age of stu­dents re­ceiv­ing fed­er­ally sub­si­dized lunches at Dil­lard

and East Cary are higher than the district av­er­age. East Cary also has had dif­fi­culty at­tract­ing stu­dents, leav­ing it at only 62% of its ca­pac­ity.


Ad­min­is­tra­tors said one rea­son the lan­guage im­mer­sion theme is be­ing pro­posed is a 2019 sur­vey of mag­net ap­pli­cants found a high in­ter­est in the pro­gram. Wake now has a hand­ful of lan­guage im­mer­sion mag­net schools in which some stu­dents spend half or all of their school day tak­ing their aca­demic sub­jects in a dif­fer­ent lan­guage.

Un­der the pro­posal, Dil­lard Ele­men­tary stu­dents who want the im­mer­sion pro­gram would take lit­er­acy, math, so­cial stud­ies and sci­ence in Span­ish. The non-im­mer­sion stu­dents would be able to take Span­ish or French daily.

A sim­i­lar ap­proach would be used for the ele­men­tary stu­dents at East Cary who are in the Chi­nese im­mer­sion pro­gram. Non­im­mer­sion stu­dents could take Span­ish or Chi­nese daily.

“One of the ad­van­tages of an im­mer­sion pro­gram is that stu­dents would be bilin­gual, bilit­er­ate and bi­cul­tural, there­fore giv­ing them greater ac­cess to greater suc­cess af­ter they grad­u­ate from high school and the abil­ity to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple around the world,” said Sheri Golden-Perry, se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Global Schools Net­work and IB Pro­gramme.

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