Presque Isle area school district forging relationship with Beijing school

Posted Sept. 22, 2011, at 7:27 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle High School students may one day be able to study in China if the fruits of a budding relationship between SAD 1 and the Niulanshan First Secondary School in Beijing continue to grow.

“We’ve been working on an international school possibility over the last few months,” said SAD 1 Superintendent Gehrig Johnson at the Sept. 7 board meeting. “A contingent of education officials from Beijing were in Presque Isle recently. We provided them a tour of Presque Isle High School and they’re very much interested in forming a relationship with us.

“We hit it off very well through interpreters. Our board chair, Lucy Richard, also attended,” he said. “I have been invited to visit Beijing to work on a cooperative agreement between the two schools that would start the process of laying out a relationship between our two high schools.”

The Niulanshan First Secondary School is a large school by American standards, with just under 7,000 students.

Johnson said Weiqiang Wu, who represents the Beijing high school, has invited up to 20 PIHS students to Beijing next summer to attend a one-week cultural institute. Wu’s wife, Huijun Gao, is a visiting scholar from the University of China who is now teaching at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

“Wu’s daughter, Jingyan Wu, has recently enrolled at PIHS,” said Johnson. “We’re pleased that she will be with us for the school year. I’m sure our students will enjoy this cultural exchange.”

Referring to the Presque Isle students possibly visiting China next summer, Johnson said, “Our students would be able to begin to understand the Chinese culture, and the Chinese high school system. The parents would pay for the airfare and students would be the guests of the Chinese school while they were there.”

Richard said she found it interesting that there likely wouldn’t be a huge language barrier between the two groups of students.

“They are required to learn English over there,” she said. “A lot of the students take English right up through their high school career so that will help with the language barrier.

“They would like to set up an exchange program at some point,” said Richard. “It’s the beginning of the process, but the interest is there.”

Johnson said while the Beijing school officials initiated the relationship, local students would prosper from it as well.

“There would be a chance for our students to study over there, and possibly members of our faculty,” he said. “There are a lot of cultural opportunities that students would be able to take advantage of including the Great Wall of China. This is very much in the beginning phase, but it’s something we’re all optimistic we can make happen.”

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