Mandarin Chinese immersion school planned in Greenville

Looking to the future, Jennifer Kirchner worries about what the competitive global economy has in store for her 3-year-old daughter Eleanor.

One thing is almost certain: It's not going to be easy in the coming decades.

That's one reason that Kirchner next year will enroll Eleanor in East Link Academy, a public charter school in Greenville where all students will be taught in two languages: English and Mandarin Chinese.

"I want to give the opportunity to my daughter to be bilingual," Kirchner said.

East Link, opening in August 2018 on Rutherford Road, will give young people a leg up in the global economy, organizers said. Plus, research has shown that students who intensively study foreign languages excel in other academic subjects.

With classes from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade, East Link students will study the typical subjects of language arts, math, science and social studies.

"They will learn all the same material that a child would learn in a normal public school," Kirchner said.

But they'll spend 50 percent of their day learning in English and the other 50 percent learning in Mandarin.

"This is true immersion in Mandarin," said Traci Bryant-Riches, project manager of East Link Academy. "This is where the kids spent at least half of their day speaking and listening in Mandarin."

As a public charter school, East Link will be open to all students for free, although the pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds is not funded by public dollars and therefore will require a fee.

Students are not required to have had any experience with Mandarin before enrolling.

"You don't have to know a thing," Bryant-Riches said. "All you have to do is show up."


A Chinese language immersion academy is unique in the Upstate, although East Link is patterned after a similar school, East Point Academy, in West Columbia.