GREENVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Parents with children in Greenville Public Schools hope to keep their district’s Chinese Immersion program from being shuttered.
Starting in kindergarten, the Chinese Immersion Program puts students on a path toward becoming bilingual in Mandarin. The program is taught at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
“We are a bilingual household. So having another language, having that exposure, is really valuable to us,” said Melinda Bagaga, a parent with two children in Greenville’s Chinese Immersion program.
In February, Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Wayne Roedel sent out a letter saying the district is planning to phase out the program. According to the letter, kindergartners and first grade students at Walnut Hills Elementary will transition to traditional learning in the 2023-2024 school year.
Roedel listed students, especially at the elementary level, underperforming academically and behaviorally, as the reason for the decision.
Some parents said they were blindsided by the announcement.
“The email was really shocking because we had never received any information prior about any issues,” Bagaga said.
Megan Ledin, also a parent of two students in Greenville’s Chinese Immersion Program, said the district has shown data that revealed that the majority of the issues are from students outside of the program.
“It made zero sense and I think a lot of parents feel the same way,” Ledin said. “We have this gem and they’re like ‘no, because we don’t know how to figure out how to help the other students who are struggling, we’re going to take this gem away and then Greenville will go back to just an ordinary school.'”
Ledin’s children will be able to complete the program, but she wants other students in the future to have the same opportunity. She also said she’s concerned about the teachers.
“Especially the Chinese staff, have poured their heart and soul into this program,” Ledin said. “It seems like a big slap in the face to them that we’re going to start cutting this program.”
Bagaga said if her third child who starts kindergarten next school year can’t take part in Chinese Immersion, it could make for some difficult decisions.
“It will be a decision for our family whether we seek schooling elsewhere or figure out how to make things work,” Bagaga said.
Parents are now hoping the district will rethink its decision.
“This was so exciting that we had something to draw people in and something unique that we could offer,” Ledin said. “Let’s come together and figure out a solution to help everyone so we can continue this program because it is a huge success.”
The Greenville school board has a meeting Monday night where parents are expected to make their voices heard on the Chinese Immersion Program being phased out.
News 8 has reached out to Greenville’s superintendent multiple times for comment, but have not heard back.