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New Chinese-language school opens in Valencia

Organizers say they'll serve growing Asian population

Posted: September 27, 2009 10:14 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Charles Wang, 5, works on his Chinese characters and math problems as his parents attend an orientation meeting at the SCV Chinese School on Saturday.

As the mother of two young children, Valencia resident Xiao Jiang has tried teaching Chinese at home, but she ran into difficulties.

"Without a formal structure and environment, it's very hard to keep his progress," she said, referring to her kindergarten-aged son.

"It's so easy to give up as a parent."

So when she heard about the newly opened SCV Chinese School, she decided to attend an open house and learn more.

"We (have been) looking for this kind of school for a long time," Jiang said.

And as the first classes started Sunday at a Valencia tutor center, Jiang become excited about the possibilities for her two kids.

"We really want this to be a success," she said.

With a son in kindergarten and a 2-year-old daughter, Jiang, a Valencia resident for six years, said her children are at the right age to begin learning the language, which she already speaks at home.

"It's perfect timing," she said.

At the same time, Jiang thinks the school is a good resource for the Santa Clarita Valley as China's fast-growing population and economy is drawing interest from countries like the United States.

Jinghong Li, the school's principal, says he has watched Santa Clarita's Asian population, particularly Chinese, grow in recent years.

U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2005 put Santa Clarita's estimated Asian population of 11,200 in a city that counts nearly 200,000 residents.

Of the 11,200, the bureau reports that 11 percent are Chinese.

While private tutors, volunteers and some churches offer Chinese language lessons, Li found that the programs weren't consistently offered.

"You need a stable environment," he said.

Schools that Li, a local resident since 1994, would tour in nearby cities like Northridge were busy with hundreds of students, but he couldn't find anything in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Li, himself a parent, said he speaks Chinese at home but finds that the language doesn't stick.

"Kids understand but don't speak it," said Li, who lives in Castaic.

For now, the school is registered as a nonprofit organization. Its recent open house drew about 25 interested families, Li said.

After realizing the demand for the school, the school organized more open houses on Saturday. This time, the school hosted an English-only session, along with the Chinese session, as a handful of English-speaking families were interested in enrolling their children, he said.

While it's been mostly school-aged children signing up for classes, the school expects to count two adults as students, he said.

With a handful of teachers, the center will charge for lessons, but "We're not here for the money," Li said.

The school's long-term plan is to expand the number of classes and teachers so that K-12 students can enroll in language classes, he said.

While teaching Chinese will be the main focus, the hope is that the school will become a center for cultural learning and a place for the local Chinese to meet regularly, Li said.

"When it comes to community action, we are not organized," he said.

But the school's opening shows there is a need.

"Until last month, it was just an idea," Li said.


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