Lee Academy continues growth in Asia

Posted Nov. 13, 2008, at 10:38 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6 a.m.

LEE, Maine — Lee Academy officials are poised to help create three satellite campuses on mainland China and South Korea which, added to four Chinese Lee schools due to be built next year, would allow as many as 5,000 Asian students to learn Lee’s American curriculum by 2015, officials said Thursday.

Headmaster Bruce Lindberg is considering proposals to create schools in suburban Beijing; Seoul, South Korea; and Shenjzu, a city in western China, he said. The Korean proposal arrived last week. The others were offered during his trip to China early last month. If all goes well, those schools will open in September 2010.

“We are probably nearing our max,” Lindberg said Thursday of the number of schools Lee could co-create in Asia. “Time, energy and personnel are the limitations.

“Right now, I am committed to three times a year being in China. If we keep it at this level, it is probable that each trip would be seven to 10 days, so that equates to me being a month off this campus. If we go more than that, well, you can’t split me that many ways,” he added.

Lindberg signed agreements in July with Chinese authorities to create high school campuses in Shenzhen, a subtropical port city of 12 million in southern China just north of Hong Kong; Shijiazhuang, a northern city of 9 million southwest of Beijing; and Chengdu, a city of 11 million just south of the center of China. The schools will open in September 2009.

The private academy’s contract to create the first American high school on the Chinese mainland, in Wuhan, a city of 9.1 million 500 miles north of Hong Kong and 600 miles south of Beijing, was signed in April.

That school had 35 students as of Thursday, but five to 10 students are added to the Wuhan school a week, Lindberg said.

Symptomatic of China’s efforts to become an economic world power and Lee Academy’s desires to grow — at a time when most Maine public schools are shrinking in budget and population — the creation of satellite schools is helping the academy generate more income and attract more Asian interest in Maine, Lindberg said.

All of the Asian schools are expected to have 200 to 500 students, eventually with exchange programs that will allow Lee students to study in China, Lindberg said.

However, the Lee campus is not expected to grow exponentially, although more staff and student additions have occurred. Four new staff positions have been added since July. The school hired Bob Potts as director of annual giving and alumni relations in July and JoAnn Graffam as director of advancement in October.

Interns Paul Tian of China and Michelle Shin of Seoul are new teachers. Tian helps Asian students as a classroom translator. Shin is a history and English as a second language teacher.

As of September, 86 national and international students are enrolled at the school and living in dorms, including 33 Chinese students. That’s compared to 68 national and international students last year. That student enrollment will increase by as many as 10 students in January, Lindberg said.

“If we had room, we could have more than that,” Lindberg added.

The school will begin fundraising in January for a $2 million renovation of its main building, but no greater expansions are planned, he said.

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