The reconstruction of Beichuan Middle School will kick off at 2:28 pm on May 12, 2009, exactly a year after the devastating earthquake demolished the original school. Liu Yachun, headmaster of Beichuan Middle School, hopes to make it one of the nation's best.
Beichuan Middle School was the hardest-hit school during the May 12 earthquake, with more than 1,300 students and teachers killed or missing. Since May 19, 2008, the surviving students and teachers were relocated to the courtyard of the Changhong training center in Sichuan's Mianyang City, acting as their temporary school.
The school now hosts nearly 3,000 students. About 1,300 of them are Beichuan Middle School survivors, and the remaining students enrolled later, according to Liu.
In only a year's time, they will return to Beichuan, with a brand new school beckoning.
Funded mostly by donations from Chinese all over the world, the new school will be built in Beichuan's Yongchang Town. It will cover about 225 mu (15 hectares) and is designed to be earthquake-proof. The construction will be completed on May 12, 2010, Liu told chinadaily.com.cn.
"We plan to hold the opening ceremony of the new school on September 1 next year," Liu said.
Total costs for the new school will be less than 200 million yuan, and its design will be centered on "practicality rather than luxuriousness," Liu emphasized. "A number of landmark buildings to commemorate the earthquake are high on the agenda, but saving costs is a top priority."
However, to make the new school one of the nation's best relies as much, if not more, on "software". The lack of top-notch teachers is the biggest obstacle facing Liu's ambition. He hopes to solve this problem by introducing more talent, and more importantly, developing more indigenous teachers from within.
"It's hard for us to attract top teachers from other parts of the country, given the conditions we are in and the salaries and the accommodation we can offer," he said. At the same time, teachers from Beichuan Middle School are "going out" and taking part in various training schemes, including those provided by Hong Kong's St. Paul's Secondary and the Capital Normal University.
Indeed, Liu has a blueprint. In three years' time, he intends to expand the teaching staff to 300, his ideal number for a top middle school, from the current 211. This year, he plans to recruit 50 new teachers.
When asked if those teachers who survived the earthquake will be dropped if they cannot reach the level required by a top national middle school, Liu firmly said "Definitely not!"
More than 140 teachers experienced the earthquake, Liu said, and they have made great sacrifices and contributions to the school. He is hopeful that all of them will be able to perform their new roles through training. Even if they cannot, he will make proper arrangements to find everyone a proper position.
All of these efforts are, of course, for the students. "Their life is bright," Liu said. "Right now, what I'm most worried about is someone asking the students about the earthquake." He even made an appeal to the media to avoid reminding them of the past.
The one thing they need most, headmaster Liu said, is peace and tranquility.