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Local News

Nonprofit group to aid Chinese Immersion education

Parent council advocates for funds, programs in D220

District 220 Chinese Immersion program students participated in the Barrington High School homecoming parade last year (2013).
District 220 Chinese Immersion program students participated in the Barrington High School homecoming parade last year (2013).

BARRINGTON – The Barrington Chinese Immersion Council received its 501c3 designation just a few weeks ago and members are anxious to further support the Bridge to Chinese Program in Barrington Community Unit School District 220.

Knowing the school district only has so many resources it can designate to the Chinese program, a group of parents with children involved in the program began talking roughly three years ago about what they could do to support the program.

Knowing the school district only has so many resources it can designate to the Chinese program, a group of parents with children involved in the program began talking roughly three years ago about what they could do to support the program.

How the council does that, is still to be determined. It has been discussed that the council would help with cultural events for the students and the community at large, and generally just supplement and expand on whatever the school district can supply.

“Obviously, the school district has limited funds, so our goal, now that we have a 501c3, is to really kick our fundraising into gear and raise some money,” Windon said.

Although the Barrington Chinese Immersion Council was officially formed in May 2014, parents involved has already been supporting the program, according to Jennifer Barnabee, director of Extended Services and Bridge to Chinese.

Barnabee said the group has already helped put together dragon boat racing and kite flying events.

The Bridge to Chinese program currently boasts 10 classes, with two classes at each grade level from kindergarten through fourth grade. Two additional kindergarten classes will be added in the 2015-16 school, so there will be two classes in each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade. The program is housed at North Barrington Elementary School, Barbara B. Rose Elementary School and Countryside Elementary School.

Roughly 190 students are currently enrolled. Students spend half their day being taught in Chinese by Chinese-speaking teachers and half their day is taught in English by English-speaking teachers. The students cover all of the subjects covered in a traditional classroom.

As students graduate to the junior high school level, Barnabee said the intent is for the program to be housed at Barrington Middle School-Station Campus. Though the district is still researching how to run it at the middle school level, the current thought is that students will continue with a Chinese foreign language class and then take an additional class in Chinese, possibly social studies.

Windon, who has two children enrolled in the program, is amazed on a daily basis at what his children are learning.

“It’s fascinating for me to see how fast they learn this other language,” Windon said.

His daughter Maggie, a kindergartner in the program at North Barrington School, already counts, sings songs and knows many words in Chinese. His son Clayton, a fourth grader at Barbara B. Rose School, can do all of that, plus read books in Chinese and read signs in Chinatown.

“The reason my wife and I were excited about this program… is there’s a lot of educational research that shows that learning another language at a young age impacts their brain development,” Windon said.

Students are accepted into the program as kindergartners or first graders, as space allows. Class sizes have been roughly 20 students. Applications for enrollment in the classes starting in Fall 2015, will be accepted beginning in Feb. 2015.

The Barrington Chinese Immersion Council is open to parents of students in the program and the board will be looking for additional members and volunteers. The goal is to work with the district and support it and the Chinese program however it can.

“We think this is an incredible program and we are very supportive,” Windon said.

A Barrington Chinese Immersion Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 28, time and location still to be determined.

For more information on becoming part of the Barrington Chinese Immersion Council, email bcic220@gmail.com.

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