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Scarsdale Schools Advance Bid To Have Mandarin Taught In Middle School

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, a Scarsdale parent, says the group that has been fighting to expand language choices -- specifically Mandarin -- in local schools is "extremely happy" about the Board of Education's recent move.
Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, a Scarsdale parent, says the group that has been fighting to expand language choices -- specifically Mandarin -- in local schools is "extremely happy" about the Board of Education's recent move. Photo Credit: Provided

SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- Parents who have been pushing to include the teaching of Mandarin at the middle-school level are hailing a recent decision by the Scarsdale Board of Education to sign up students for classes in the Chinese dialect.

“Frankly, for the community, this is an historic moment,” said Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, the mother of a preschooler and a student at the Fox Meadow Middle School.

At a recent study session, the board decided to send a note to parents, asking them, if interested, to sign up their “rising sixth-graders” (fifth-graders who will enter the sixth-grade next fall) for Mandarin classes.

Lynne Shain, Scarsdale's assistant superintendent for curriculum, instructions and assessment, said that the district was "pleased to offer the opportunity to study Mandarin to our rising sixth-graders, contingent on a minimum registration of 48 students."

Parents of current fifth-graders have been asked to return registration forms to the Middle School by Friday, Feb. 12, Shain said.

Administration officials plan to inform the Board of Education about the number of Mandarin registrations by its Monday, Feb. 29, meeting, she said.

If a “minimum” of 48 children sign up, the district will then hire a full-time teacher and commit to a three-year pilot program, school officials said.

The language is already taught at the high school level, but parents have been fighting for years to have it taught in the middle schools, Kirkendall-Rodriguez said.

In a previous Daily Voice interview, Kirkendall-Rodriguez said learning Mandarin is important for a number of reasons, the first of which is that China is the United State’s second-largest trading partner after Canada.

Secondly, she had said, both the State Department and the Department of Education have determined that Mandarin is important for national security and diplomacy.

A bank regulatory consultant and trainer, she said there are reasons to learn Mandarin even if “you never leave the country.”

Many jobs in the United States are going unfilled, she said, because of the need for Mandarin-speakers.

Naming Larchmont, Rye, and Pelham as some of the districts in Westchester that offer Mandarin in their middle schools, Kirkendall-Rodriguez, said “our kids are just as capable.”

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