Chinese immersion school could face changes next school year

Chinese immersion school could face changes next school year

FITCHBURG, Wis. - An area immersion school could face possible changes during the 2017-2018 school year.

The Verona Area International School is hoping the school district will extend its contract for another two years, despite fact that the district has raised concerns.

The elementary school focuses on Chinese immersion. Students learn English and Mandarin as well as traditional studies.

"If you go to New York, California, it's private school. You have to pay for this. I think we are supporting Verona Area School District because we want to give equal opportunity for every kid," VAIS parent Abby Ngampongsai said.

Ngampongsai moved her family to the Verona school district so her two daughters could enroll in the Chinese immersion school, and receive an education she hopes will not be taken away.

"We are working hard to make sure they have the opportunity to have Chinese as one of your choices. So I think for my kids, (the school closing) would be really heartbreaking," she said.

The district has expressed concerns over a decline in enrollment. Questions on the sustainability of the school come as the VAIS Governance Council looks to renew a 2-year contract with the district.

"We just want a chance to work with the district, to come to solutions that allow us to mature in the future and be around for future children," VAIS Governance Council President Carolyn Jahnke.

Ninety students are currently enrolled in the school. When it opened its doors in 2010, the goal was to have 22 students per class.

According to the council, they have met that goal in four out of seven years the school has been operating. During the two years the school saw a decline in enrollment, Jahnke said, the school still met the district average.

The problem is trying to replace students who leave the program or move away.

"Our attrition is what is causing problems. People move out. We can't replace them. We have talked about ways to replace them. Our solution has been to combine classes," Jahnke said.

To solve the problem, the council suggests combining fourth-grade and fifth-grade classes.

Jahnke said students in the school are not only learning Chinese culture and language, but they also have the highest test scores of any elementary school in the district.

Ngampongsai said the school provides opportunities for students that go beyond academics.

"I see it as an opportunity not just for our children, but the children everywhere in the world to learn another culture and be prepared in the future, to be a good citizen of the world. So one thing we do is learn the culture of other people," she said.

The discussion is still at the committee level and has not gone to the full board. The school board will meet next on Oct. 10. Members will still have to discuss options before any action can be taken at a future meeting.

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