Students from K4 – grade 4 have a new option for this school year. East Link Academy, a public charter school, opens its Chinese immersion program in Greenville.

Attending the school is free and plans are to add a grade each year until the school offers classes through eighth grade.

“Our goal is not only to teach academics but to give them the benefit of language,” Dana Hutto, Head of School, said.

Between 50 and 75 percent of the students’ school day will be with a teacher who only speaks Mandarin Chinese to them. The amount varies by grade level.

“They are going to learn the same content as any other student in South Carolina,” Hutto said. “They will just learn it from a teacher speaking a different language. The language becomes conversational. It becomes part of their life.”

Hutto worked in a similar school in Columbia.

“Learning the regular content this way not only strengthens the language, but it strengthens their problem solving and learning of the content,” she said.

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The language is tonal and students will at first get some information through songs and hand gestures.

“It actually works best if they don’t know (Chinese) but it’s OK if they know some,” Hutto said. “It helps if they are starting younger. They have a better ability to pick up those different tones.”

The school’s founding is a joint effort by parents, international businesses located in the Upstate and those who have seen the success of the Columbia school. The charter was authorized in 2017. Though it is only the second public charter Chinese immersion school of its kind in South Carolina, Hutto said there are dozens across the country.

“It’s been a couple of years in the making but we’re finally here,” she said.

East Link Academy is free and open to any South Carolina resident. It is chartered through the South Carolina Public Charter School District and will be opening in the new education building of Hampton Heights Baptist Church on Wade Hampton Blvd. The school is currently taking enrollment for all grades 4K-4. For details, visit

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