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Federal officials tour Mass. Mandarin immersion K – 12 school

September 17, 2015

Federal official tours addition at Chinese Immersion school
HADLEY — Lian Duan, a middle school math teacher at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, has a large classroom on the fourth floor of the school’s new addition — but it wasn’t always that way.

Her situation when she started teaching for the school six years ago was very different.

“So we started out with no classrooms,” Duan said Thursday at the school. “The first year we started the middle school we actually went outside. They rented a tent for us, so we had classes outside in the field underneath a tent for a few months.”

That situation has changed in a large part due to a $10.6 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Community Facility Direct Loan Program, which funded the school’s latest expansion.

The Chinese Immersion School bought its current building in 2009 for $2.35 million, also with the help of a USDA assistance program. In 2013, the school planned its expansion, and construction began in 2014. The addition adds 15 classrooms and 38,000 square feet to the school.
In a visit to the school Thursday, USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah toured the facilities, which will be able to accommodate 584 students by the year 2018, according to a statement from the Rural Development office. The school is poised to become the first K-12 Chinese immersion school in the United States when it adds a 12th-grade class in September 2016. Currently the school only serves students through 11th grade.

“I don’t think people would expect that in small-town USA, in small-town rural America, we are at the cutting edge of innovation in the global economy,” Mensah said Thursday.

She said most people don’t think of the USDA as an agency that helps to fund schools — but, $7 billion has gone into the program that benefited the Chinese Immersion school. The money pays for long-term projects that benefit rural areas, she said.

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