By SCOTT MERZBACH
Monday, June 16, 2014, Hampshire Gazette
HADLEY — A public charter school focused on immersing students in both Mandarin Chinese and English languages will begin an ambitious expansion project this week.
The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion School will hold a ceremonial ground-breaking Tuesday at 317 Russell St. for the four-story, 38,400-square-foot addition that will more than double the size of the 30,000-square-foot school and help meet the demands of an increasing enrollment.
Construction follows the September approval of a $10.6 million loan from the Community Facility Direct Loan Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
“Finding or developing appropriate school facilities is one of the greatest challenges for many charter schools,” said Richard Alcorn, the school’s executive director. ”The parents and guardians of Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School students owe a huge debt of gratitude to the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development for the mortgage financing we have received from them over the years to purchase our Hadley facility, renovate it and now expand our facility with an addition.”
Alcorn said he also appreciates the support Hadley officials have shown for the school and its expansion.
The school, which opened in 2007, has 320 students in kindergarten though ninth grade. In 2018, the school anticipates increasing enrollment to 584 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Principal Kathleen Wang said in a statement that students come from throughout the area, with the school serving 39 communities.
“This funding helps a diverse population of students from Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties,” Wang said.
The addition will hold 15 full-size classrooms, four seminar rooms, a media center, a science room, an art room, a combination music and theater room and four meeting rooms. Additional bathrooms and utility space will also be in the new building, as well as an elevator to access all four floors.
Jonathan “Jay” L. Healy, state director for USDA rural development, said his agency sees the importance of having students develop expertise in the Chinese language, and giving more area children that opportunity.
“Relationships with China will continue to be all-important as both our countries evolve,” Healy said.
The USDA Rural Development grant program helps finance facilities, such as schools and libraries, for public use in less densely populated areas. It also meets the objectives of President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to strengthen rural America.