CHAPEL HILL — Parents of children in the Mandarin program at Glenwood Elementary School don’t like the program being blamed for overcrowding at the school.
“It’s one thing to attack the issue, which is overcrowding,” said Collen Minton, a mother of a first-grader. “It’s another thing to attack the program. That is not warranted here.”
At the Nov. 7 Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said Glenwood’s growth is attributed to the additional dual language track added to the school, transfers of older siblings of newly-enrolled dual language kindergarten students, students’ enrollment into dual language at upper grades and growth the school’s attendance zone. The problem was the growth in the school’s attendance zone was higher than expected.
“Spot redistricting is common within the system,” said school board member James Barrett. “But it makes it difficult to project where students will be living at the beginning of the year because people move.”
Glenwood had too many students before last year’s redistricting and remains overpopulated this year.
“These parents just want some resolve,” Minton said. “We don’t want this to happen year after year, and we don’t want to keep revisiting it.”
According to fall statistics collected by the district, Glenwood has 513 students, 90 more than its capacity. Glenwood is the smallest elementary school in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, yet it has the fifth largest student population among the 11 elementary schools in the district.
In a presentation at the Nov. 7 meeting, LoFrese said the district wants to continue to grow the Mandarin program but must find a way to accommodate its growth. The school board rejected creating a Spanish/Mandarin dual language magnet at a current school because it would mean moving either the Mandarin or Spanish program at a select school in order to combine them. It would also include redistricting in December or next school year.
Minton said there has been a disconnect among the parents at Glenwood in the Mandarin program and traditional students.
“I think it has to do with the poor planing,” said Dan Copeland, a parent of a kindergartner. “It’s a complex issue, and I think they should have the dual-language program embedded within a school and not create a separate program.”
Catherine Nichols, a parent of a second-grader in the traditional program at Glenwood, opposes expanding the Mandarin program.
“There has been no discussion of the validity of this program,” Nichols said. “As that program continues to grow, it can’t accommodate more and more kids in the Glenwood zone or wherever they put it. So now the other schools are going to have to make accommodations on the caps of this program.”
Many Carrboro Elementary parents attended the Nov. 7 board meeting to plead that fixing overcrowding at Glenwood does not affect their school.
Some board members recommended slowing down the Mandarin program to address the problem.
LoFrese said a decision must be made by Feb. 1, when parents enroll their children in kindergarten. Glenwood is projected to have 571 students next year if the problem is not resolved.
The board has asked district staff to come up will new proposals to address the problem. LoFrese said any option will require moving a significant number of students.