The school board on Jan. 12 agreed to have staff continue working out the details of La Entrada Principal Lawrence Thomas' proposal to offer the class, which would give students another choice of world language study in a program that already includes Spanish, French and Latin.
The class will be offered as an elective when registration for the 2011-12 school year takes place next month, and if enough students sign up and other criteria are met to the school board's satisfaction, a teacher would be brought onboard and the pilot course launched.
Mr. Hartwig said the board is asking staff for more details about the proposed program before it decides on whether to approve its addition to the curriculum.
A staff report to the board says that parent interest in offering Mandarin at La Entrada has grown in recent years, and cites "China's rapid emergence in the world's economic, cultural, and diplomatic arenas" in underscoring the importance of Mandarin language study.
The program would be structured to prepare students to enroll in level-two Mandarin in high school, the report said. It would be offered to sixth- through eighth-graders, it said.
Woodside and Carlmont in the Sequoia Union High School District currently offer Mandarin, as do a number of private high schools in the area, Mr. Thomas said in a letter to parents.
Mr. Hartwig said the program wouldn't be "a big financial investment for us," given that student enrollment is continuing to grow significantly and that more teaching staff is needed anyway to accommodate that growth. "The nominal expense for the program would be on materials," he said.
The staff and parents who worked collaboratively over the last couple of years to research how the program might be developed and put in place "really deserve a lot of thanks for their effort," Mr. Hartwig said. "It's a step in a new direction," which requires much effort and commitment, he added.