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State officials visit local dual language program

HAMPTON – School has only been open for about a month, but the dual language immersion program at Dutchtown Elementary is in full swing.

Roughly 40 kindergartners are taking part in the first-year program, but Principal Winnie Johnson has seen a high level of engagement from parents of students in the program. Each parent wants to assist and witness the building of an international and marketable foundation.

The students are learning part of their core subjects in Mandarin Chinese. The new dialect, history, and culture that comes with it will help students compete in their schooling and beyond with a global pool of applicants all seeking jobs of the future.

Martha Reichrath, deputy state superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment from the Georgia Department of Education, and Greg Barfield, program specialist for world languages and global initiatives from the state department, recently paid a visit to the school to see the early signs of the program’s success. It was a $15,000 grant from the state that enabled this program to become a reality.

“We were very impressed with the general air of excitement that was prevalent in the classrooms,” said Barfield. “All students were engaged, and instruction was only in Chinese. Students seemed very at ease with hearing only Chinese spoken.”

Both officials were given a tour of the two classrooms utilized in a co-teaching manner — one class is taught strictly in Mandarin Chinese and focuses on science and math, and the other is taught in traditional English and focuses on language arts, social studies and writing.

Teachers Mei Cantrell, a native Mandarin speaker, and Kim Moss share the task of teaching kindergartners in two different languages. Their classes switch during the middle of the day to learn the different subjects in a different language.

A new grade will be added to the program each year until all six grades at Dutchtown have the dual language immersion program by the 2018-19 school year.