Mesa High to offer Mandarin classes

Costa Mesa High will offer Mandarin Chinese classes this fall, the first school in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to do so.

The foreign language classes gained unanimous approval from the school board Tuesday night.

Seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders at Costa Mesa Middle and High schools will be allowed to enroll in one of two sections of the language class this fall, high school Principal Phil D'Agostino said. The two schools share a campus at Mesa.

"For the last three years, we've been increasing the level of expectations of students to be taking rigorous foreign language courses," D'Agostino said.

Two years ago, the school hired an additional Spanish teacher, but until now, that was the only foreign language Mesa offered, the principal said.

"We're now at that point where we want to diversify our offerings," he said.

Mandarin fits well with Mesa's award-winning business program, said D'Agostino, noting China's position in the global economy.

"It just makes sense for us to make sure we have 21st century classes for kids who are going to be living and working in the 21st century," he said.

Mesa and the district had to start from scratch with Mandarin, trying to find an appropriate curriculum for an introductory course.

"Because we don't have Mandarin currently in our district, we utilized some of our sister districts and their curriculum departments," said Steve McLaughlin, the district's director of secondary curriculum and instruction.

McLaughlin and others studied syllabuses for more than 20 different mandarin classes and interviewed educators throughout the past year, D'Agostino said.

With the course established, other high school campuses in the district can follow Mesa's lead and start teaching classes.

Next year, the district will develop more advanced Mandarin courses, providing the next steps for students who want to study the language for four years.

"We're very excited about it," D'Agostino said. "The next step is to hire a teacher."

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