Presque Isle school board to consider agreement with Chinese school

Posted Nov. 09, 2011, at 6:21 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine —The SAD 1 board will look more closely next week at the first draft of a cooperative agreement that could develop an international relationship between Presque Isle High School and a school in Beijing.

Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said during a recent interview that the agreement between PIHS and the Niulanshan First Secondary School in China was completed last month. It now has to be refined and approved by the board.

The agreement is the first step in a journey that could lead to Chinese students spending a year at PIHS while Presque Isle students spend time in Beijing as part of a cultural exchange.

“Right now, I have just been going over the agreement with the people involved, but we haven’t had a discussion with the school board about it since our last meeting in October,” said Johnson. “There is a lot to discuss and think about, so it will take some time for the board to make a decision.”

The two educational institutes have been discussing the matter for a few months. The proposal would let a limited number of Chinese students enroll at PIHS each year during the first three years of the program to follow the school’s curriculum. They also would take part in an English language program and other educational opportunities. The agreement also would allow some PIHS students to attend a one-week cultural institute in Beijing.

Johnson said that the proposal calls for airfare to be paid by the Presque Isle students with room and board provided by the host Chinese school. Once the board approves the agreement, more details about the program will be worked out.

The superintendent said that the district began exploring the idea after conversations with officials at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and its president, Don Zillman. This past July, 41 Chinese high school students spent a week at UMPI taking classes, living in the residence halls and touring the area. All of the students, who were in their first year of high school, were from Hefei No. 8, a high school in Hefei, China. Although they all spoke English, they were honing their language skills while studying subjects such as math, science and computer technology. The group was taught by five UMPI instructors.

It was the first time that the college had partnered with the school, but UMPI administrators have forged international relationships in the past. In September 2009, officials from UMPI and the Lertlah School, a private school with three campuses in Thailand, signed an agreement that allows UMPI education students to complete their student teaching requirements overseas. The school is bilingual, with a portion of the courses taught in English. This past June, the college signed an agreement with Bethany Bible College in Sussex, New Brunswick, that will allow students from the Canadian institute to pursue postdegree options at UMPI and attain academic requirements for teacher certification in Maine and New Brunswick.

The SAD 1 superintendent said he believes that students from both the U.S. and China would gain a great deal from the proposed relationship, including the chance to see firsthand how schools in China operate. They also would become immersed in Chinese culture.

He also said that it could present instructional opportunities for PIHS faculty members.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16.

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