Some Gahanna students interested in learning Mandarin Chinese will have an opportunity next year.

Some Gahanna students interested in learning Mandarin Chinese will have an opportunity next year.

Gahanna-Jefferson school officials recently learned the district was approved for a Chinese guest-teacher grant through the College Board/Hanban program to provide a full-time Chinese instructor for a minimum of one academic year.

The district is responsible for about $3,000 for transportation costs, providing a host family and some insurance costs. The Chinese government's department of education funds the entire salary, a portion of transportation costs and some medical insurance.

The district also recently received a grant for $6,720 for spring 2008 and $29,137 for the 2008-09 school year through the Ohio Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education to purchase supplies and materials and provide teacher salaries to develop and implement the pilot Mandarin Chinese program.

"There is still a lot of planning that has to be done," said Hank Langhals, the district's director of pupil affairs. "A lot of specifics are not in place."

Langhals said the district would like to have the Mandarin Chinese program in place in two buildings at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year for students in grades 1-4. The program likely will be expanded to more buildings during the school year, he said.

"I doubt we will be able to offer it to all (students)," he said. "The program will likely include after-school time."

Mandarin Chinese has been offered as part of an after-school enrichment program at the elementary level for the past two years, along with French and Spanish.

District officials surveyed those parents to gauge interest in an ongoing elementary-level program. Officials decided to offer Chinese first because of the additional resources.

Langhals said the teacher would arrive prior to the start of the school year. He expects to begin communications with the visiting teacher within the next two weeks. Efforts will begin to find a host family or families.

A lot of questions still need answered, Langhals said. He said the visiting teacher would be proficient in English, a licensed teacher in China and would meet all requirements mandated for Ohio teachers.

The Chinese Ministry of Education sends 150 teachers a year to the United States, expecting them to gain an understanding of the educational system and the English language so that they'll become better teachers.

"The Chinese government encourages it because it is a benefit to both countries," Langhals said.

He said he expects a major movement in Ohio districts in the next two years to implement Mandarin Chinese. Gahanna started by offering a class at Gahanna Lincoln High School this year. Next year, more classes will be added.

"This is not just a fad," Langhals said. "There is more and more of a demand for American business people fluent in Chinese."

Langhals said district officials have talked about having foreign language at the elementary level for a number of years but didn't have the resources. It also was difficult to figure out how to work foreign language into the school day.

"The resource is not only money but time," he said. "Studies show (elementary school) is where you should be starting introduction of (a foreign) language."

Also two elementary schools have instituted a Sesame Street Mandarin Chinese class at the kindergarten level. The class is a four-week pilot program through the Ohio Department of Education. Students spend 10 minutes a day on Mandarin Chinese.

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com