School outside school: No English spoken here

Gayle Worland:

Monday through Friday, Maya Reinfeldt is an eighth-grader at Savanna Oaks Middle School in Fitchburg.
But on Saturdays, while her classmates are at soccer practice or gymnastics lessons, the 13-year-old is back at a desk studying literature in her mother’s native Russian.

Maya is one of more than 50 students enrolled at the Madison Russian School, a weekly immersion program where students can take classes in math, language, literature and drama, often using the same texts as their counterparts in Russian schools.

It’s not all academics. Students also do many performance events, sing together in a choir and participate in cultural gatherings with their families. And because they spend years together in the same classroom, they often develop deep friendships linked by a faraway culture.

“Sometimes I get more out of it than normal school,” said Maya, whose mother helped co-found the Russian School in 2003 so that her daughter, then 2, could master the language. “It’s a pretty good way to spend a Saturday morning. Otherwise I’d just be wasting my time.”