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Chinese student boarding program pushed back at Ashland High School

ASHLAND — The school district won't start a Chinese boarding school program next academic year, because the U.S. Homeland Security clearance process didn't leave enough time to recruit students, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said Thursday.

The federal department approved the program a week ago, leaving only about two months to recruit 25 Chinese students to study English at Ashland High School during the 2011-12 academic year.

"Although I am disappointed that we will not be able to implement the program next year, I look forward to implementing it in 2012-13," Di Chiro said in an e-mail message. "This will give us additional time to develop an effective marketing plan, as well as strengthen our partnerships with SOU (Southern Oregon University) and St. Mary's."

The district will begin recruiting students next winter, Di Chiro said.

Chinese students are typically recruited between January and April for study abroad programs, she said.

The district's recruiting firm, the Cambridge Institute of Chinese Business Research, told Di Chiro this week that it wouldn't have enough time to recruit students for the next academic year.

District officials hope to enroll 25 Chinese students, who will pay $25,000 each, in the high school next academic year, enabling it to become the first public school in the state to charge tuition to international students.

The district is modeling the Chinese program after one at St. Mary's School in Medford that was implemented last fall.

The students, who would be high school juniors and approximately 16 years old, would live in Southern Oregon University dorms and enroll in regular Ashland High School classes as well as in specialized English classes.

The program could bring in about $178,750 in the first year, said Jill Turner, the district's business manager.

The district would receive about $625,000 in tuition, but would need to spend about $446,000 to run the program, she said.

Some of the proceeds from the program would go toward implementing the high school's redesign, Di Chiro said. The remaining amount would go into the district's general fund and could help minimize budget cuts.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com