“It looks like the United Nations here,” Park said. “We’re extremely proud of creating an environment of diversity.”
Barnard is home to a K-6 Mandarin Chinese magnet school that began in Point Loma in 2007. The cluster recruited the language-immersion program and convinced the school board to pass a K-12 matriculation from Barnard to Correia and Point Loma High School.
“Most people are naïve about Mandarin Chinese. It’s the most-spoken language in the world,” said Matt Spathas, president of the Point Loma Cluster Schools Foundation. “Mandarin is a 21st century skill set.”
In just four years, the school has become a success story. It’s a California Distinguished School with a waiting list of 100 students. Successful partnerships like that with San Diego State University and the International Confucius Institute give the school international clout.
Eddie Kapelczak, a student of Hispanic-Polish decent who is now at Correia Middle School, was one of the youngest invited to participate in the China Bridge Competition in Chongqing, China.
The program is the lone Point Loma cluster beneficiary in the district’s realignment plan. While the Barnard campus would close, the language program would move to Dana Middle School and be expanded.
Barnard is one of the most ethnically diverse schools. The other two are Cabrillo and Dewey, which serve military families. There are 434 students living in Barnard’s boundaries. Of the 267 students enrolled, 102 are residents within the boundary, 19 are from elsewhere in the cluster and 146 are non-residents from outside the cluster.
Since 2006, the school has had 144 Academic Performance Index (API) growth points, the second highest in the cluster behind Correia Middle School with 145. The school’s cost per pupil is more than $4,613, the second highest in the cluster behind Cabrillo.
But Park looks at the program as a revenue generator.
“Magnet schools attract people outside the district and they bring ADA (average daily attendance funding from the state of California.),” he said.
He calculates that the school is currently bringing in $120,000 from students from other school districts.
Despite the school’s successes, Dana supporters do not want the program to move to that campus.
“The realignment plan is not about taking over Dana,” Park said. “We could be in Kearny Mesa. We’ll be a success wherever we are.”
The bigger question may not be where the Barnard program will go, but what the district will do with the nine acres of land Barnard sits on if the school site is shuttered.