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Westford Academy Welcomes Chinese Principal

The following is a transcript of the Nov. 17, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

9:05 p.m. – Tim Welch then provided an update on International Programs at Westford Academy.

Welch is a German teacher and International Exchange Coordinator at Westford Academy.

Westford Academy currently provides German, French, Spanish and Latin at Levels 1 to 5 and Mandarin Chinese Levels 1 -2 with a possible Level 3.

The first four allow advanced placement.

There are partner schools for all the languages provided in the native countries of the languages where students can attend schools in those countries for several weeks (Italy for the Latin program).

Westford Academy also hosts full-year exchange students, last year they were from the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and France. They take classes just like native students.

This year there is a student from Germany, one from Austria and two from China.

There’s also a new partnership being developed with the high school attached to Hebei Normal University in Shidafuzhong, a city in China.

Welch said the area of Shidafuzhong is growing at a rate that is hard to imagine. He visited there last year and observed things in the school, teaching a class of 67 students.

He also toured the city and did things during the tour.

Now until Nov. 21, a principal from China is touring Westford Academy, UMass Lowell, and several other Westford schools.

The principal will also be treated to several other area experiences and events.

Welch hopes to establish a new short-term exchange program with China, expanding a current short-term exchange program in Germany and restarting one.

He also hopes to explore teacher exchanges, connect with Westford Academy alumni teaching abroad and organize International Community Service trips.

9:19 p.m. – School Committee member David Keele noted that his family is participating in the student exchange program and noted the kids he had from Spain thought kids from Westford had too much to do and they wondered how they could reciprocate.

He praised the program and was happy it was expanding.

However, he asked if there are programs to help less fortunate students with the expenses of heading to foreign countries.

Welch said that the costs are different depending on the types of trips and exchange trips are cheaper than tourist trips since students live with families.

He also said that students come up with unique items from the countries where they participate in exchange as part of fundraising efforts.

Westford Academy Principal Jim Antonelli said there are opportunities for scholarships and support from families.

Keele said not to overlook Canada as a foreign exchange destination.

Welch says there is a five-day program for French already in place.

School Committee Member Margaret Murray asked about foreign students leaving early.

Welch said there are some requirements with many exchange companies, and while parents sometimes visit, usually the students don’t want to leave once they finish their program and their language skills improve significantly.

School Committee Member Terence Ryan asked how many Westford Academy students are involved in exchanges.

Welch said it can be up to 60 students in a year.

School Committee Member Erika Kohl gave praise to the presentation as well as a pen pal program implemented in the past.

Antonelli said he was impressed by Welch’s work and appreciated that he was a Westford Academy alumnus.

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