Through the eyes of a 4-year-old pre-kindergarten student, the straight lines and loops of American letters start to mean something. Now local educators are seizing this narrow window of language development to immerse kids in Spanish and introduce them to Mandarin Chinese.
Twenty pre-K students at Hall County's World Language Academy are among only a handful of 4-year-olds in the Western Hemisphere who spend 80 percent of their school day communicating with teachers in Spanish, 10 percent of the day communicating in English and 10 percent of their day learning Mandarin Chinese.
Year after year for 10 years, the principal of East Hall Middle School was forced to tell teachers and students state test scores were not high enough to meet "Adequate Yearly Progress" as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The task was arduous. About 3 out of 4 East Hall Middle students are economically disadvantaged. More than 12 percent do not speak English as a first language. And more than 13 percent have special needs, whereas most schools have a roughly 10 percent special needs population.
Before the Gainesville City Council got a chance to hear business owners' responses to a proposal to annex their properties into the Gainesville city limits, the council was threatened with a lawsuit, a legislative veto and the burden of breaking recession-stressed business owners.
Put mildly, a proposal to annex "island" properties at major entrances into the city already has proved contentious.
When the parent of a rising Johnson High School freshman stood before the Hall County school board last November, she asked if there was anything board members could do to improve the school that some perceive as lackluster.