Opening doors

E.E. Waddell Language Academy has opened previously unseen doors for five eighth-graders.

"I've studied Chinese since kindergarten and traveled to China when I was in sixth grade," said Elise Tucker. "It was a bit of a culture shock, but I didn't feel out of place because I spoke and read the language. I learned a lot from the experience."

Waddell currently houses a K-8 magnet program that gives students an opportunity to gain fluency in Chinese, French, German and Japanese. Additionally, students may elect to enroll in Spanish in middle school.

"There is a high demand for the program and we often have a waiting list," said Principal Felicia Eybl.

The district wants to expand access to some of its most popular programs. To support this initiative, part of the district's 2017 bond proposal includes renovating E.E. Waddell to reopen as a magnet high school and build two new K-8 language immersion schools in the north and south areas of the county.

The bond would provide capital funding to build 17 new schools, relieving overcrowding at 20 other schools. The bond would also provide funding for renovations or additions at 12 more schools and would reduce the number of students in mobile classrooms at the 29 bond-project sites.

Justin Parmenter, a language arts teacher at the school, welcomes the possible expansion.His own children attend Waddell and are in the German track.

"Our students are able to see the practical benefits of what they are learning, whether they travel abroad or not," said Parmenter. "They interact with students from different backgrounds daily. This is what the world looks like."

Jaiya Bolden, Rayaana Boubacar and Annelise Bowers are enrolled in the French track. Jaiya and Rayaana have added Spanish as a third language.

"Studying different languages has helped me advance in all my classes, especially in math. It was not my strongest subject but now I'm in Math I," said Rayaana.

The students said their middle school experience has been similar to a traditional school, with many of them playing sports or participating in clubs.

"What sets us apart isn't only that we are fluent in several languages," said Rachel Kerschner, who speaks German. "It's the support we receive from our teachers and each other. We are a family."