Mandarin Chinese has quickly become one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and a growing number of parents and students have been lobbying the College Station school board to teach the language in its two high schools.
A committee of seven mothers officially joined forces in February to collectively request the program, though this group and other parents have been lobbying the district since September.
A&M Consolidated and College Station High School currently offer Spanish, French, German and Latin, according to course catalogs.
Li Tian, a mother of two children, began reaching out to Superintendent Eddie Coulson in the fall, and met with him and four other parents in November. She said the superintendent explained the budget is tight, so a Chinese program is not a top priority for the district at the moment, a position he maintains now.
"Adding Chinese has not been a priority for us over the course of the past several years," Coulson said to The Eagle on Thursday. "We've instead emphasized building our dual-language program in the district. We've emphasized career and technology education courses, and obviously as we transition from one comprehensive high school to two, that has been an expensive piece for us, so our priorities really have been other places."
Those interested have not given up, though; Tian organized 22 parents and students to attend the board meeting in November, and similar numbers have attended the meetings in January and February. At each meeting, students, parents or both have spoken before the board to request the program, and they plan to continue to do so at the March 18 board meeting, Tian said.
The committee, largely led by Tian, has been gathering data to present to the district. She says since Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, students will only benefit from having Chinese as an option to study.
Kristen Cheng, a committee member who married a Chinese man and has two half-Chinese children, said the language is growing now the way Spanish exploded across the nation.
"A lot of my friends that are my age that graduated say, 'Oh I wish I had learned Spanish,' and I feel a very similar thing is happening now with Chinese," she said. "On a global scale the Chinese economy is exploding, the number of Chinese consumers is growing rapidly, so I see the same thing happening."
A growing number of districts in Texas have added Chinese as a foreign language option, including the Houston, Austin and Dallas districts.
One of these districts is College Station's neighbor in Bryan, which added a Mandarin Chinese class for sixth- and seventh-graders at a gifted and talented academy at Jane Long Middle School in 2009 and at Bryan High School in 2013. There is also a Chinese enrichment program at Johnson Elementary, according to a district spokesperson.
The district is referring the option for a Chinese program to the two campus improvement teams, which will evaluate the need and do research over the spring and fall, Coulson said. The teams will decide whether or not to make a recommendation to the district council in the fall.
Students are currently in the process of signing up for courses for the next school year, so if the teams determine need and make a recommendation to the board, the earliest a program could be implemented is the 2015-2016 school year, Coulson said.