West Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A ground-breaking ceremony for South Carolina's first Mandarin Immersion public charter school took place Tuesday afternoon.

East Point Academy was founded seven years ago with 85 students. This year, the public charter school has 550 students.

"We had community leaders who had the foresight to understand that for children in education, we need to think more globally. The number one export for BMW in South Carolina is to China. The number one language spoken across the world is Chinese. We need to think more globally when we think about the education of our children. It was the foresight of the founding board members who realized that there was something we can do to help our children learn another language," said Joan Hoffman, the Board chair.

The $29 million project is funded by a USDA grant. The new school will be on Chris Drive in West Columbia.