OXFORD – SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman and several other school officials set off today on a 13-day trip to China to finalize plans for a teacher-exchange program for the next school year.

“We’re going to finalize the details of the negotiation for this exchange,” Eastman said of the plan to have a Chinese teacher at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School next fall. He will be accompanied by high school Principal Ted Moccia and Craig Blanchard, a high school social studies teacher, who is making his seventh trip to China.

Eastman, who is making his first journey to the country, will be staying with one of the seven principals of the Zhe-Jiang Normal University middle school in Jin Hua, a city of about 1.3 million people. The students range in age from 15 to 17.

SAD 17 officials initiated the local exchange program through the assistance of the Newton Public School system in Massachusetts, which established the first international sister school with China. The Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School program is believed to be the first such program established in Maine.

The exchange program will allow a Chinese teacher to come to OHCHS next fall and in turn send OHCHS teacher Jason Long to the sister high school in China in January.

To prepare for the trip, Eastman has been tutored in Mandarin and will make his official greeting to the Chinese delegation in that language.

“It’s a wonderful gesture,” Eastman said.

The trip is being sponsored, in part, through the Freeman Foundation, a New York-based organization whose goal is to foster relationships between the United States and Far Eastern countries through financial and informational assistance.

The idea was sparked several years ago after a team of teachers and administrators visited the school in Jin Hua where a group of local students had visited during a home-stay program.

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