The Vietnamese in Northern Virginia will continue to use the Page Elementary School in Arlington as a community center through the summer.
The center's lease will expire June 30, but Arlington's school board and County Board recently agreed to allow the center to operate in part of Page School through Aug. 31 while the Vietnamese find another location for their center. The Page building will be used as an alternative elementary school in September.
Nguyen Ngoe Bich, spokesman for the Vietnamese community, said he is considering the Hoffman-Boston School in Arlington as a potential location for the community center. The school is now used as a recreation center. Bich feels that the site, near Washington Boulevard and Columbia Pike, would be a central location for the Vietnamese population in the area. Another advantage of the Hoffman-Boston School is that it has tennis courts, a soccer field and other recreational facilities, he said.
"But from the financial point of view . . . I have some reservation," Bich said. The rental cost estimated by the Arlington school board is roughly $300 per classroom per month, Bich said.
"The (Arlington school) board itself looks with favor on what we are trying to do," said Bich. "But they are concerned that their financial ends meet, too." Bich said he hopes to negotiate a lease with lower rent by the end of summer.
The three-month extension at Page School will serve as a transitional period. Bich hopes "to avoid too brusque a move elsewhere. We want to make the move smooth as possible."
When a new center is established, it will include a sports center, library, offices and meeting rooms, said Bich, who hopes it will later serve as a day care facility as well.Also proposed is a program geared to upgrade the skills of Vietnamese whose training and education in Vietnam are of little value in the U.S. job market. Birch said Vietnamese lawyers, teachers and pharmacists have an especially hard time finding jobs in their fields in the United States. But through the proposed program a Vietnamese-trained lawyer, for example, might become "at least a paralegal," he said.
Another long-range goal for the community center, once it is relocated, is to offer a mental health counseling program, said Bich.