Fewer students at Bibb County schools will take Mandarin Chinese classes when they return next week, as funding problems have put the brakes on the high-profile program.
The school system attracted international attention last year by requiring Mandarin classes for elementary students. The plan was to expand the program to all grade levels in coming years, but now it’s contracting because of budget cuts.
This year 18 elementary schools will have no Mandarin teachers at all, said Deputy Superintendent Jane Drennan.
“I’m sad to think that it’s not a possibility for all of our elementary kids right now, but I’m very glad, and I feel we’re fortunate to be able to continue it for the seven schools that we can,” she said.
Last year Bibb schools hired 25 young Chinese teachers through the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University. With that entire budget now gone, the Chinese government-funded Institute has agreed to provide 14 instructors for free.
Drennan considered having those 14 teachers rotate around all 25 elementary schools this year, but there's no money for transportation, she said.
"We are going to put two teachers in the seven schools that really were enthusiastic about it last year and embraced it," Drennan said. "Because I think in order for it to be successful it always has to be embraced by not only your staff but your parents as well."