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Potomac Elementary To Absorb More Students

Immersion program to admit at least two from out of boundary.

In September, there will be at least two students in Potomac Elementary who are not from Potomac.

The school board decided to reserve two spaces in the Chinese Immersion Program for students from outside the school’s boundary area.

“They’ve approved it on a capacity basis,” said Linda Goldberg, acting principal of Potomac Elementary.

The board capped the class capacity at 25 and set aside two seats for non-Potomac residents. Students from Potomac will have priority for the other 23 seats, but any they do not fill will be opened up to other county residents. Non-Potomac students will have access to their slots on a lottery basis. Currently, the kindergarten Chinese immersion class has 18 students, leaving at least seven spaces open in first grade next year, provided that all the kindergarten students continue in the program.

Some parents are upset about the way the expansion was handled. “We really wish they had talked to us,” said Diana Conway, who has a child in the immersion program.

Conway believes the parents who are familiar with the program could have helped. For example, she says that students wishing to go into the program in first grade now do not have to a proficiency exam. “That will effectively limit the program to native speakers,” Conway said.

ALTHOUGH residents may be concerned about the current overcrowding at the school -- there are currently over 600 students in a facility built for 488 -- Goldberg say it shouldn’t be a problem. “Our enrollment for next year is forecasted to be less,” Goldberg said.

She believes that having a few more students in each class will not have a dramatic effect on the school, pointing out that the class will still require the same kind of facilities if there are 18 or 25 students in it. “There will be the same number of classes,” Goldberg said. “We’ll be fine.”

THE PROGRAM’S class typically gets a bit smaller each year as students either drop out or move. “This keeps it a viable program,” Goldberg said.

Out-of-area students will also be able to enter the program in first grade. Students wishing to enter the program in first grade will need to pass a proficiency test. Additionally, since the program has expanded to Hoover Middle School, students will be able to enter the sixth grade program there, provided they pass a proficiency test. The class size at Hoover has been set at 30. The new students will not begin to enter the Hoover program until the 2004-05 school year.

No transportation will be provided to students from outside Potomac to either school.