HISTORY OF THE GARDENA BUDDHIST CHURCH JAPANESE LANGUAGE SCHOOL
- Gardena Buddhist Church (GBC) was established.
- June, 1928
- Gardena Buddhist Church Japanese Language School (GBC-JLS) was established. (Saturday classes only)
The School began with two teachers and about 70 students with Rev. Kosei Ogura as the first principal. From 1928 to 1980, the minister of the Church held the double duty of being the principal of the School as well as the minister.
Originally, the student body was restricted to the off-spring of the Church members, and the Japanese language instructions included Buddhist teachings. This policy was changed after World War II to accept any student regardless of their religious beliefs.
- Daily Division started.
- Saturday students – 220-230, Daily students – 40-50
- Before and after the World War II
- The School ceased to exist temporarily with the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific due to World War II. The Church and the classrooms served as the baggage storage for the Japanese Americans who were forcibly relocated and incarcerated in concentration camps during the War.
- September, 1945
- The Gardena Buddhist Church re-opened its doors as a combination of Church-hostel.
- October, 1948
- The Church regained its status as church only.
- February, 1949
- The School reopened.
- Parent-Teacher Council (PTC) was established as a parent support group.
- Mr. Takeo Ono was appointed as the first PTC President.
- September, 1958
- The school was reorganized by Rev. Zesei Kawasaki and other members of the Church by doing the following:
- set grades
- place the qualification requirements of teachers and increase number of teachers
- select new textbooks
- increase the number of classrooms
- increase the number of students
- organize the Parent-Teacher Council and others
The reorganization of the school was a huge success in increase of enrollment, teachers, and others. With a rapid increase of enrollment, an Upper Division was formed (later became the Intermediate Division.) Tea Ceremony and Flower Arrangement classes were started too.
Only Saturday classes were offer for a while after the War.
- November 17, 1962
- The school building 1 was built.
- September, 1963
- Daily Elementary Division was re-opened. By the late 1960s, the enrollment neared 600.
- January, 1969
- First issue of PTC News Letter was published.
PTC Newsletter was started by Rev.-Principal Kenyu Masuyama as the Japanese
Editor-writer and Dr. Tom Maeda as the English Editor-translator to keep the parents informed about the activities of the school. It was originally published monthly. The Newsletter contains school related articles, news from PTC and student’s essays.
- June, 1970
- the Summer School was revived after a nine-year hiatus.
- “Hana-no-Kai” (Mother’s Club) was organized.
This organization gave way to Room Mothers (now Room Parents) organization in the late 1980s.
- Fall, 1972
- Daily Yochika (later renamed Yochibu) Division (Preschool) was inaugurated.
First Preschool Director – Mrs. Sachi Masuyama, Children’s ages – 3 and 4
Various elective classes were started on Saturday afternoons.
The hours of instruction for the Saturday school was shortened. (9:00 AM – 3:00 PM to 8:30 am – 12:20 PM)
- September, 1973
- The Daily Intermediate Division was inaugurated.
Until then, the students completing the Elementary Division were required to switch to the Saturday Division in order to attend the Intermediate Division.
- September, 1974
- The Daily and Saturday Kindergarten classes were started.
- February 2, 1975
- The school building 2 was built.
- September, 1975
- The Saturday Yochika (current Yochibu) Division came into being.
- The preschool division was gibe the name “Nakayoshi Yochien.”
- The day care was added as a part of the preschool program. The preschool stared accepting children from age 2-years-old. Piano lessons were stared as elective.
The student enrollment reached its zenith in the late 1970s – early 1980s, when the total enrollment hovered around 800 students, making this the largest single Japanese Language School in the entire United States. With changing demographics, interests, and number of expatriates, enrollment gradually diminished. Currently there is a total enrollment of about 150 students including the preschool division.
Various elective classes such as calligraphy, pen calligraphy, arts and craft, cooking, Soroban (abacus), conversation, aikido, karate, flower and tea ceremony were offered in the past.
The Gardena Buddhist Church Japanese Language School is guided by the School Board Chairman and the Committee, elected by the Gardena Buddhist Church.