Valley Park Elementary cancels kindergarten enrollment for Chinese Immersion program

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Valley Park Elementary in Overland Park, one of the two Blue Valley schools that hosts the school district’s Chinese Immersion program, canceled kindergarten enrollment for this fall.

In an email at the end of April, district officials told Valley Park Elementary parents that the school would no longer go forward with a new kindergarten cohort for the program for the 2023-24 school year.

The announcement comes in the middle of the district’s months-long evaluation of the immersive language program. The district is considering the next steps for the program’s long-term sustainability amid ongoing staffing challenges.

Blue Valley Chinese Immersion
The Blue Valley School District told parents via email last week that kindergarten enrollment at Valley Park Elementary will not carry on after all, citing low enrollment. Photo via Blue Valley School District website.

The district cited low enrollment as the reason

  • Earlier this spring, district staff said kindergarten enrollment would have to reach 45 students per class in order for the program to continue at both schools.
  • The email to Valley Park Elementary parents stated the school had received “low enrollment” for the incoming kindergarten class, but omitted specifics on how many students had enrolled.
  • Valley Park Elementary parents were given the option to apply for transfers to Wolf Springs Elementary, the other school hosting the program, but transportation to the other school would be unavailable.

The decision disappointed parents with incoming kindergarteners

  • Some parents felt as though the school had not promoted the program sufficiently, and that the district failed to provide clarity around the enrollment process and deadlines.
  • Valley Park Elementary parent Laura Knapp, who had planned for her daughter to join the kindergarten class of the program this fall, said she felt sadness and guilt around having to tell her daughter that her school year wouldn’t go as planned.
  • “We’ve lied to our child about what’s happening — and I mean, we didn’t intentionally, but that feels terrible,” Knapp said. “This is not a good feeling to have as a new parent to an elementary school kid, like what else is going to change or like what do I need to buckle up for?”
  • Another parent, Renee Silver, said her daughter, an incoming kindergartener, had looked forward to sharing a language with her brother — a second grader in the program.
  • “We were very caught off guard and disappointed and just sad that she wasn’t going to be able to have the opportunity that he had,” Silver said. “Part of the goals with learning a foreign language would be to be able to bring it home and have somebody else to practice those skills with.”

The decision also raised questions about the rest of the program

  • For some parents, the lack of an incoming kindergarten class at Valley Park Elementary has raised concerns about what could happen to the remaining grades in the program.
  • The district began discussing the program’s staffing challenges at length earlier this spring, spurring some concerns from parents outside the program about its impacts on an already overcrowded school.
  • Melissa Bayouth, Chinese Immersion parent and member of the school’s Chinese Immersion task force, said she’s grateful the school will have more classrooms for traditional students this fall but, in her mind, sufficient resources inside and outside of the program shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
  • “I love this program, and I love that our school has two great options — every student is different,” she said. “We have families now that don’t know what they’re going to do for this incoming year. It’s just this air of uncertainty right now.”

Decisions about the program as a whole will be made later this year

  • The Chinese Immersion task force will continue to meet throughout the summer and discuss next steps for the program as a whole.
  • The group will return to the Blue Valley Board of Education in November with recommendations on how to sustain the program.
  • In the meantime, the kindergarten cohort will carry on at Wolf Springs Elementary, as will grades one through five at both schools.

Below is a copy of the email to Valley Park Elementary parents.

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Go deeper: What could happen to Blue Valley’s Chinese Immersion program? 

About the author

Lucie Krisman
Lucie Krisman

Hi! I’m Lucie Krisman, and I cover local business for the Johnson County Post.

I’m a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but have been living in Kansas since I moved here to attend KU, where I earned my degree in journalism. Prior to joining the Post, I did work for The Pitch, the Eudora Times, the North Dakota Newspaper Association and KTUL in Tulsa.