EDUCATION & SCHOOLS

Box Elder district to remove Chinese immersion program in schools

Jan 24, 2024, 6:47 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2024, 7:05 am

BRIGHAM CITY — The Box Elder School District is going to remove the Chinese immersion program for new students, citing “declining interest.” Still, some parents are urging them to reconsider.

The Chinese dual immersion program at Golden Spike Elementary School is ideally supposed to have 60 new kids each year to make up two classes. Instead, its enrollment is about half of that amount. Despite the low enrollment, parents who have seen the program work say it’s too valuable to drop.

Luke Anderson has participated in nine years of Chinese dual immersion. He said he’s sorry to hear other kids in his area may not get that same chance.

“I’m disappointed, I think Chinese is going to do a lot for me in the future,” Luke said.

He saw his language skills pay off on a recent trip to Taiwan.

Annette Anderson and her daughter in Taiwan. (Anderson family) Annette Anderson and her daughter in Taiwan. (Anderson family) Luke Anderson in Taiwan with students after spending nine years in  Chinese dual immersion at his school in Utah. (Anderson family)

“To watch it in action was incredible and it just really made us appreciate this skill that they’ve been able to acquire just through school,” said his mother, Annette Anderson.

Anderson, who also has a daughter in the program, is among the parents who are urging Box Elder schools to keep it.

“It’s about what kind of cultures of people you can connect with. It’s about helping you, even to the degree discover who you are inside,” Jared Turner said.

Turner’s family lived in China for several years. The immersion program helped his older kids continue learning Mandarin when they moved back to Utah.

Jared Turner and his family during the time they lived in China. (Turner family)

Jeremy Young is the new director of dual immersion for the Box Elder School District. Ashlee Nelson ran it before him.

“This has been a concern for quite a few years now,” Nelson said.

Students who were already participants in the program will be able to continue until they graduate, but new students will not be able to join. The school district has four elementary schools already with Spanish immersion and Young said there’s already enough interest shown at Golden Spike Elementary to add that program, but not enough interest in Chinese programs to keep them.

“We are proponents of dual immersion. We see the benefit of dual immersion. We see it as a wonderful thing,” Young said.

Young said Chinese immersion classes at this point have smaller numbers in the beginning and by the time those classes get into middle and high school, they become even smaller.

“We end up spending more per student just to staff the classes in those Chinese programs,” Young said.

But parents say it’s hard to put a dollar value on what it teaches them.

“There is so much more to learning a new language than getting a better job,” Turner said. “It’s about enriching your life.”

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Box Elder district to remove Chinese immersion program in schools