Wake County may add three language immersion schools
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.
ATTRACTING WESTERN WAKE FAMILIES TO MAGNET SCHOOLS
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.
PARENTAL INTEREST IN LANGUAGE IMMERSION
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.