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Chinese university remains undecided on town of Oswegatchie campus

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OGDENSBURG - It will likely be another month until officials at a Chinese university decide whether the school will open an American campus in the town of Oswegatchie.

A delegation from Qingdao University was in St. Lawrence Couny July 26 to tour the Route 37 campus of the former Academy at Ivy Ridge. That is also where businessman James Ma, who bought the property last year, hopes to start up in fall 2013 an English as second language school for high school students from his native China and other countries.

On Thursday, Mr. Ma said the initial post-visit decision deadline of one month won’t be met.

“Not yet,” he said. “It will probably be next month.”

Mr. Ma said Qingdao officials are following a procedure back in China that is taking longer than expected to complete. Reports must be written and submitted and officials at the school’s “higher echelons” need to be briefed before a final decision is made.

“It takes time,” Mr. Ma said.

By all accounts, the July 26 visit was a success. Qingdao Vice President Wang Huanliang called the 238-acre property located at 5428 Route 37 “a really good place to run a school.”

Mr. Huanliang called the collaboration of Qingdao’s and Mr. Ma’s enterprises a “model” for joint U.S. and Chinese cultural and educational enrichment. His students from the U.S. and Canada can learn Chinese language and culture while Mr. Ma’s students from China and elsewhere around the world can do the same with English.

“I’m still very optimistic,” Mr. Ma said Thursday of the potential for collaboration with the university.

The Qingdao connection will enable Mr. Ma to avoid the obstacles of being unable to secure visas for his prospective students because federal immigration requirements call for a student body, faculty and curriculum to be set up before the school opens. That legality forced him last winter to cancel his plans to open his school this fall. Qingdao has established international student exchange programs and can set up first.

Qingdao was founded in 1993 in Shandong Province as a combination of other schools, the former Tsingtao University, Shandong Textile Engineering Institute, Qingdao Medical College and Qingdao Teachers’ College.

Mr. Ma, who is from Shandong Province, paid $1,550,000 for the former reform school last year. Ivy Ridge closed in 2009.

Mr. Ma expects to spend an estimated $2 million on renovations.

Qingdao’s financial stake in the enterprise has yet to be ascertained.

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