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No culture gap

Foothill Chinese School has grown since its program started five years ago with one session.

June 30, 2010|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Photo courtesy…)

La Cañada has several types of schools, with multiple elementary and high schools, public and private. However, one school stands apart from the others: More than five years ago, four mothers began the Foothill Chinese School, the only one of its kind in the city.

"Basically, the thinking was they should form a Chinese school to try and spread the Chinese culture and teach children Chinese," said Liping Fan, a member of the school's board.

They started out with about 10 students. Now anywhere from 70 to 80 students participate in the school's program at a cost of about $1,100 per school year. Originally, the school offered a single two-hour session on Thursday afternoons. Today there are classes offered Monday through Friday after regular school hours.

Foothill Chinese School students are taught how to read, write and speak Chinese in traditional classroom experience. They are also exposed to other aspects of Chinese culture, including art, dance and food, through a number of hands-on activities.

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Students recite poetry in Chinese, create art and make dumplings to enhance and apply the learning experience.

"We want our kids to have a chance to be in an environment to study Chinese," said Wei Mi, also a member of the school's board. "I speak Chinese to my son at home and he never replies. He understands some, but I cannot teach him. This environment brings him together with other people trying to speak Chinese."

That environment could be shifted soon though.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit Foothill Chinese School moved into five classrooms at the La Cañada Unified School District site on Cornishon Avenue after spending the first four years at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. One of the classrooms they moved into had been abandoned for years, Fan said.

"We had to do all the cleaning and pay to get the room painted," Mi said. "Now [the district] wants to get this room back."

Mike Leininger, the school district's assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said if Foothill Chinese School officials want to sit down and discuss renting the rooms on a monthly basis, they will do so.

"They rent the rooms for three hours in the afternoon," Leininger said. "The fact is they were told from the very beginning that if I could get a monthly lease, then they would be moving out."

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