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AHS wants Chinese classes next year

ASHLAND — Local educators expect the Chinese government to approve their application for a Confucius classroom, enabling Ashland High School to offer Chinese next fall.

The district planned informational meetings Monday and today to make Ashland parents and students aware of the new program, which district officials expect to be approved in the coming months.

"We're very optimistic about our chances of getting a teacher here next year to teach Chinese language and Chinese culture classes," Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said.

The district plans to offer several Chinese classes at AHS. If the classes do not fill up, the Chinese teacher also will hold classes at Ashland Middle School, Di Chiro said.

District officials plan to model the program after one at St. Mary's School in Medford. St. Mary's Head of School Frank Phillips has long-standing connections with the Confucius classroom program and is helping the Ashland School District with its application process, Di Chiro said.

"His support of this has just been instrumental," she said.

If the district's application is approved, the Chinese government will pay for a teacher from China to spend three years in Ashland, teaching language courses. The teacher will have at least a master's degree in teaching Chinese as a second language and will be fluent in English, Di Chiro said.

After a teacher's three years are up, districts can elect to continue the program with a different teacher, she said.

The program is almost entirely financed by the Chinese government, Di Chiro said. However, typically school districts provide the teachers with a small salary increase, she said.

The Chinese government provides the teachers with a housing allowance and a $17,000 salary for each year, Di Chiro said.

"We'll probably give them a little bit more on their salary, just to make it easier to live here," she said.

Di Chiro said she is doing research to determine how much of a salary supplement the district will offer, should the district's application be accepted.

The district planned informational meetings on the program for Ashland high and middle school students Monday and today. Two meetings are planned for community members tonight — at 5 in the Ashland Middle School library and at 7 in the Ashland High School library.

For more information, contact organizer Dale Rooklyn at rooklyn@bisp.net or 541-821-2317.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-482-3456, ext. 226, or hguzik@dailytidings.com.