cusd logoBy Allison Jarrell

After months of uncertainty, families in Capistrano Unified School District’s Mandarin Immersion Program (MIP) finally got the answer they were eagerly awaiting—their students will matriculate from Marian Bergeson Elementary School in Laguna Niguel to Fred Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo next year if they wish to continue in the immersion program.

The decision, which was reached by CUSD’s Board of Trustees on Nov. 16, came after months of debate over whether MIP students should matriculate to Fred Newhart or Niguel Hills Middle School. The Mandarin immersion program is in its fifth year and allows students to become fluent and literate in Mandarin and English.

The district’s initial recommendation in April was Fred Newhart, but that didn’t settle well with some South Orange County MIP families who favored the more centrally located Niguel Hills. After hearing concerns from those South County families about proximity, the board voted on April 13 to approve the program’s pathway from Bergeson to Niguel Hills.

However, the topic came up again in May, when two trustees requested the middle school location be reconsidered, pointing to costly renovations—over $1 million worth—that would need to be completed in order to house the program at Niguel Hills. On May 25, the board voted unanimously to reconsider the MIP matriculation pattern no later than its November meeting.

On Nov. 16, district staff presented analysis of potential feeder patterns, and the majority of trustees agreed with staff’s initial recommendation of Fred Newhart, due to factors such as enrollment capacity, location and available facilities.

The board voted 4-2-1 to approve MIP matriculation to Fred Newhart, with Trustees Jim Reardon and John Alpay opposed and Martha McNicholas absent. Alpay asked that transportation be provided to South County students, but did not receive enough support to include it in the motion. The decision will be ratified at the board’s next meeting on Dec. 14.

Marian Bergeson Elementary School is set to hold MIP information meetings and tours on Dec. 2, 8 and 14 and Jan. 11 and 18 at 8 a.m. in the school’s multipurpose room. For more information on the program, call 949.643.1540.

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