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School with high-tech classrooms rises from quake rubble
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No blackboards or chalk can be found at the Jianyong May 12 Experimental School, about a 90-minute bus ride from Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province. Those teaching tools have been replaced by high-tech gadgets known as interactive whiteboards. Inside classrooms, touch-sensitive displays are connected to computers and digital projectors to show computer images.

That is the new reality of the May 12 Experimental School in a city that was hard-hit by the 8.0-magnitude quake earlier this year.

When contacted by Xinhua on Thursday, principal Tao Ancai was in good spirits. His school, he said, should be ranked as a leader among compulsory education schools in China for being so high-tech.

"All 30 classrooms have interactive whiteboards, and all 50 teaching staff get a laptop to facilitate teaching," said Tao.

Xu Yunmen, who teaches Chinese language, said the teachers had spent more than two months learning to use the new technology before the school opened on Wednesday -- the first permanent school to be completed in the reconstruction of Sichuan Province. Many students have been studying in a range of temporary facilities since the disaster.

"Gone are the days when chalk was used. Thanks to the introduction of multimedia, there will be no more 'chalk pollution' in the future," she said, smiling.

The students are pleased too.

Third-grader Zhang Hong said she was happy and comfortable in the school, where the environment was familiar.

"Our old school was destroyed in the May 12 quake. I never expected the new schoolhouse could be rebuilt at such a pace, or that I could get back to studying so quickly," said the girl.

The quake that measured 8.0, centered in Wenchuan County, Sichuan, left more than 69,000 people dead and 374,000 injured. Another 18,000 are still listed as missing and millions were left homeless.

Huge numbers of buildings were leveled, including Zhang's old school.

In the rubble of the quake was the predecessor of the Jianyong May 12 Experimental School, which was then known simply as the Jiannan School. The old school was constructed in 1982.

Although the school was toppled by the quake, only five students were slightly injured. All the teachers and the other students miraculously escaped the catastrophe unhurt, recalled Tao, the principal.

Classes at the Jiannan School were halted. Zhang was forced to continue studying temporarily in Chengdu, where her parents were migrant workers.

Schooling resumed on Aug. 4, when students were sent to classes in pre-fab structures about 3 km from the present-day school compound.

Meanwhile, her old school was rebuilding at a cost of about 10 million yuan (about US$1.47 million). Work started on July 14, with the design in the style known as siheyuan, a kind of courtyard architecture commonly seen in north China.

The new schoolhouse, with some 900 students, has three stories and its own dining room. It is said to be able to withstand 8.0-magnitude quakes.

The province still has much work to do: there are more than 1,500 other schools waiting to be rebuilt, according to the provincial government.

(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2008)

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