CHAPEL HILL- Although it was not on the agenda, Superintendent Tom Forcella took a moment at Thursday’s Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board meeting to address the controversy surrounding overcrowding at Glenwood Elementary and the fate of the Mandarin Chinese dual language program that operates at that school.
Forcella stressed that no decision has yet been made on how to address overcrowding at Glenwood.
“There hasn’t been a decision made by the board,” said Forcella. “Obviously public input is always welcome, but during the process, sometimes things are said- that doesn‘t mean that’s going to happen.”
***Listen to Forcella’s full statement***
Glenwood Elementary is 90 students over capacity this year, due in part to a move to expand the Mandarin program, but also because of higher-than-predicted enrollment in the school’s attendance zone.
Some suggestions put forward by administrators include spot-redistricting, creating a new dual-language magnet to house the Mandarin program, moving the program to a larger school, or halting the program’s expansion.
Critics say the program serves a small number of students at a high cost to the district. They worry efforts to preserve or expand the program will cause disruption throughout the school system. Forcella said that’s not the case.
“It is our intent to address the issue; the issue is anticipated overcrowding at Glenwood,” said Forcella. “It is not out intent to try to create a major disruption to the entire school district.”
He pointed out that the school board voted last year to expand the Mandarin program earlier than originally planned. Though he called that a show of support for the program, he noted that the district’s budget crisis means every program will be up for review this spring.
“It’s important to note that we are in one of the most difficult budget situations that we have been in for a very, very, long time,” said Forcella.
About thirty parents came out to hear his comments, wearing red to show their support for the Mandarin program. Joe Kennedy is the parent of three dual language students. He said ongoing controversy about the long-term future of the program is unsettling for families and he urged the school board to make their intentions clear.
“Reaffirm, publically, your commitment to our program,” said Kennedy. “I understand that everything has to be up for review, but having been with this program from the beginning, there is a real cost to signals about going back and forth. I mean, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
School officials have a deadline of February 1 to decide. The school board will discuss overcrowding at Glenwood and the future of the Mandarin program at its next meeting on January 16. That meeting will take place at East Chapel Hill High to accommodate what’s likely to be a large crowd.