OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — There are mixed emotions in the Blue Valley School District after the Board decided to change how it’s Chinese Immersion program operates.
The district decided to end new enrollment at Valley Park Elementary and only continue enrolling kindergarteners at Wolf Springs Elementary. That would also cut the open spots roughly in half, capping the program at 54 for each Kindergarten class with the option to expand the program again in the future.
“I was glad we weren’t seeing changes to Wolf Springs because it continues that foundation to then grow in the future,” said Chinese Immersion parent Lauren Browne. “So, mixed emotions.”
That’s at least partially because Browne’s daughter Naomi has already graduated from Wolf Springs, which will be the only elementary school offering the immersion program moving forward.
Earlier this year, the district put a task force together to study how to make the Chinese Immersion program sustainable while still meeting the program’s goals.
It teaches some core subjects to students in Mandarin, helping them learn the language throughout their entire Kindergarten through 12th grade experience. The ultimate goal is for those students to take the AP Chinese Test at the end of high school.
The programs first and oldest class is in the 6th grade right now.
Melissa Bayouth was on the task force and has two students in the immersion program at Valley Park Elementary, which will no longer enroll new students.
“I very much disagreed with the district’s proposal,” Bayouth said. “I very much disagree with it.”
She says she was encouraged by the conversations the task force was having over its seven months until one of the last meetings.
“When we got to the October meeting, we were basically told that a two-site option is not viable,” Bayouth said.
The district couldn’t do an interview with FOX4 after the board approved the plan Monday evening but it sent a statement saying:
For over seven years, Blue Valley’s Chinese Immersion program has offered students unique bilingual skills in elementary school. Despite program successes, staffing and space issues pose challenges.
To ensure Mandarin instruction’s long-term sustainability and the high-quality elementary education our community expects, transitioning to a one-site model was recommended by the task force and approved by the board as the best path forward.
While acknowledging the difficulty of this change, we remain committed to securing the best educational experience for Blue Valley students.
Bayouth is also concerned about the geography of having one elementary location.
“Wolf Springs is pretty far south,” Bayouth said. “If you drive from Valley Park to Wolf Springs, it’s a 20-minute drive, one way, for drop off and pick up. That’s not feasible for my family, that’s not feasible for a lot of families.”