News / Calgary

Mandarin program parents hopeful following talks with CBE

The CBE said they also have a desire to work with the parents to find a solution

Darlene Caston attended a Calgary Board of Education meeting on Thursday to discuss plans for the Mandarin program at Midnapore Elementary School, where her two children are students.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

Darlene Caston attended a Calgary Board of Education meeting on Thursday to discuss plans for the Mandarin program at Midnapore Elementary School, where her two children are students.

A group of Calgary parents fighting to keep their kids in a specialized Mandarin program in the city’s south said they’re making progress with the Calgary Board of Education (CBE).

Darlene Casten,  spokeswoman  for the group whose children are in the Mandarin program and completing Grade 6 at Midnapore Elementary School, said they were told at the end of September their kids would have to go to a school in the city’s northeast if they wanted to continue in the program in Grade 7.

Something Casten said could result in a 95 per cent drop out rate of the current Grade 6 class, which only has eight students.

But, after presenting to the CBE board of trustees Tuesday and meeting with administration Thursday, Casten said things are looking up.

“We’re moving forward with a number of things,” she said. “We made the point to them that we’d be upset if there was any kid who wanted to pursue this couldn’t because they were limited to a north school—this isn’t the kids’ fault this happened.”

Sydney Smith, CBE area five director, said in the meeting Thursday both groups expressed a desire to work together, but there are still a number of challenges.

“It’s always been our desire to support these students, we just have some constraints around us about having the appropriate number of students, staff and space in order to be able to offer that,” she said.

Originally Casten said they’d been told they’d need 40 students per grade and 20 students in Grade 7 to open a south junior high, but after meeting with the CBE she said they told her they’re willing to be flexible—maybe.

Darlene Casten and her kids Angelo, 9 (left) Gabriel, 6, are flanked by other parents and students from the Midnapore Elementary Mandarin Program. They are asking the CBE to uphold the promise of opening a south Calgary jr. high site for the program.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

Darlene Casten and her kids Angelo, 9 (left) Gabriel, 6, are flanked by other parents and students from the Midnapore Elementary Mandarin Program. They are asking the CBE to uphold the promise of opening a south Calgary jr. high site for the program.

“The sense they gave us is that it depends on how close we can get to that number,” she said.

Casten said the parents from the program have put together numerous committees, including a student recruitment committee so that they can hopefully bolster their numbers.

“They set up a booth at the YMCA in Shawnessy and 30 people put their names down stating they were interested in the program,” she said.

The CBE will also be putting forth an expression of interest in late January looking at creating a middle school (Grades 5, 6 and 7) to house the Mandarin program. Casten said the CBE also committed to do another expression of interest the following year should it be unsuccessful the first time.

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