By Jacqueline G. Freeman
For the first time in three years the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has accepted applications for new charter schools in Boston and if all goes as planned a charter school offering Chinese language immersion will be accepting students next year, according to Helen Chin Schlichte, one of the founders of the Boston Chinese Immersion Charter School.
“We have a very talented, eager and mission-oriented group that believes very strongly in offering this innovative program for the kids in Boston,” said Schlichte.
The program includes a rigorous curriculum and a longer school day in which 90 percent of instruction will be in Mandarin Chinese. “They will have fluency by the fourth grade,” said Danielle Carrigo, a member of the Advisory Board. “If they stop at fourth grade, studies show that they will lose proficiency,” said Carrigo. “If they continue to eight grade they will keep it for life.”
The group hopes to open the school next year with Kindergarten and first grade and to add a grade each year through the eighth grade.
To that end, a group of founders and advisors is working to complete the application process, which recently opened up after the Governor filed legislation to lift the current cap on the number of charter schools in the Commonwealth. “Forty two groups submitted new charter school prospectuses,” said Schlichte. “Those who show the most promise will be notified by mid-September and encouraged to submit a full application. “
The full application is due November 1 and will be reviewed by the department and external review panels. Those who pass the review will be invited to public hearings in December and January and if it is deemed that the applicant can move forward, the board of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote on new charters at the end of February, said Schlichte. “We have sufficient confidence because of the quality of our proposal that we will be invited for a full application,” said Schlichte. “Between now and then, there is a lot to be done.”
The group is exploring different locations to house the school in Chinatown and downtown Boston. They have also held several community meetings throughout the area. “It gave us evidence that there is a desire for this integrative, alternative form of education,” said Schlichte.
The school will be open to any resident of Massachusetts, and admission will be by lottery, with a preference given to Boston residents and siblings.
Parents interested in learning more can attend the upcoming community meetings scheduled for Friday, October 1, at the Boston Foundation, 75 Arlington Street, South Boston room, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or Saturday, October 2, at Hill House, 74 Joy Street, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
More information is available at Bostonchineseimmersion.org. Schlichte also encourages parents to fill out an intent to enroll form, which will enter you into the group’s database for timely updates on the school’s progress.