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Public language immersion school set for August opening

GALA school

Meran Rogers and her family

A bilingual dream five years in the making is about to become reality for Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA) founding director Meran Rogers.
 
Rogers's new foreign language immersion school will open its doors on August 3, welcoming approximately 100 kindergarten and first-grade students to the former St. Vincent de Paul parish at 13400 Lorain Avenue. For its first iteration, the school will occupy only the ground and first floors of the 30,000-square-foot facility. Administrators expect classes to expand to the building's second floor in coming years as GALA adds additional grade levels, up to eighth grade.
 
Fresh Water first reported on plans for the tuition-free, public charter school in October 2014. The effort has come a long way since then: The school has been hosting monthly open houses since February to show off its new digs and champion an educational model based around Spanish and Mandarin programming. This month's open house events are scheduled for Thursday, June 9 at 5 p.m., and Saturday, June 11, at 10 a.m.
 
"We'll have a tour of the school and a Q & A afterwards," says Rogers. "Tours are usually a big hit. It's a matter of getting the word out and getting families to come."

Meanwhile, professional development sessions for GALA's dozen teachers begins in July.
 
As a public charter school, GALA will adhere to learning standards set forth by the Ohio Department of Education. Seventy percent of instruction each day will be provided in Mandarin or Spanish; the remaining 30 percent will be taught in English, notes Rogers. In addition, GALA will offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) program that allows participants to plan out their own projects.
 
On its first day, GALA will stand as Northeast Ohio's first foreign language immersion school as well as the only Mandarin immersion school in state. Most schools with similar teaching models are private or serve higher-income communities, says Rogers. GALA is open to all, no matter their socioeconomic background.
 
Rogers, who previously taught at a Taiwanese immersion school and is former director of community affairs for Global Cleveland, says her experience growing up with multilingual parents in a low-income household inspired GALA's creation.
 
"I was labeled as a special education student, and didn't learn how to read or write until the second grade," says Rogers. "I could have been bilingual but never had the environment to maintain that."
 
Rogers is thrilled to bring an absorbing educational experience to other children, an effort involving supportive teachers, parents and board members. Then there are donors which include the Albert B. and Audrey G. Ratner Family Foundation, Bernie Moreno CompaniesEaton CorporationRPM International Inc. and Margaret Wong & Associates.
 
Though Rogers doesn't expect to be dancing in the halls come August, she is excited about the new school's intricately planned journey.
 
"People are saying how great this, and asking me how I feel," Rogers says. "I just feel good. There is a lot more work to get done and I can't celebrate just yet."

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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