Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2006

Chinese visitors delay trip to city

September 28, 2006

A visit from students and educators from Kaifeng No. 5 Middle School in China has been delayed until later this fall.

Lansing High School staff and students had made tentative plans to play host to the contingent for a seven-day stay that was to begin Saturday, pending the visitors' visa approvals.

The tour is part of a three-year partnership that began in March when eight students and three teachers from LHS visited the school in Kaifeng and toured sights in Shanghai, Beijing and Xian.

LHS teacher Linda Leffler said the group of two male students and three educators from Kaifeng had planned to apply for their visas on Sept. 21. But the group changed those plans after two schools in Kaifeng and Xian were denied visas on Sept. 19 for visits to two Kansas City-area schools.

She said the U.S. Consulate in Beijing might have denied the visas because the applicants didn't include their passport numbers on the applications.

"This is not something that is uncommon," she said. "It has happened."

As a result, Leffler said, the group from Kaifeng No. 5 Middle School was hesitant to apply for visas so soon after the other groups and decided to apply for them in mid-October.

She added that the process was costly because it required a nonrefundable application fee and a trip to the consulate office in Beijing - an 800-mile journey.

Leffler said that while both the would-be guests and would-be hosts were disappointed, she looked at it as opportunity to have more time to prepare for their visit.

She said the earliest the group would arrive in Lansing would be late October or early November.

"We all know how we would feel if our bags were packed and we didn't get to go on a trip. I'm sure this will all work out," she said.

Leffler added that in 2005, Wang Kai and Liu Peibing, principals from Kaifeng No. 5 Middle School, had to reapply for visas before their visit to Lansing. Their initial applications were denied for an unknown reason.

Donna Hughes, assistant superintendent, has written a letter of invitation that will accompany the visa applications. The district also will ask for supporting documents from the University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies and the Kansas Consortium for Teaching About Asia.

Leffler said she hoped those documents would help secure the approvals.

She said she appreciated the patience of the host families and the community while the group follows the required procedures.

"I don't think this will impact the plans of what they'll be doing here. It will just delay it," she said.

Return to China

Meanwhile, LHS is proceeding with plans for a group of eight students and three teachers to return to Kaifeng in March.

Leffler and fellow LHS teachers Bianca Elliott and Cathy Smith will make the two-week trip, which will include visits to Kaifeng No. 5 Middle School, Shanghai, Beijing and Xian.

Four students who have already been selected for the trip are sophomore Dana Piper, junior Jasmine Holland, and seniors Michael Brooks and Phillip Johnson.

A parent meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at room 209 in LHS to discuss the application and selection process to fill the four remaining spots.

Leffler said 13 students had indicated an interest in applying for the trip.

She said the selection committee would then give the students time to complete the applications and gather letters of recommendation from teachers and community members outside the school.

Other key criteria the selection committee will focus on include the applicant's interest in an international career, academic standing, leadership qualities and a willingness to learn a new culture and tell others about it.

The committee is expected to announce their selections by late October.

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