The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district has been forced to absorb $150,000 in Medical Services Plan coverage for international students this year.
The money has been taken from the international student tuition revenue fund to pay the fees after the provincial government made the sudden announcement on Aug. 1.
In a recent letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix, the B.C. School Trustees Association asked that the requirement for international students to enrol in the MSP this year be delayed until the 2020/21 school year.
The association said that enrolment in the plan this year has put school districts across the province in a “very awkward and expensive position,” because the parents of these students have already signed contracts for the provision of educational services, homestays and other services that include emergency medical coverage.
“It simply is not possible to amend previously signed contracts and payments,” said the letter dated Nov. 5 and signed by BCSTA president Stephanie Higginson.
“Due to the late timing of this policy announcement, we are instead forced to take money out of local school district budgets.”
Districts had to pay $37.50 per month for each international student they had enrolled until the end of December and then $75 per month for each student to the end of the school year.
Irena Pochop, with the local school district, said the money used to absorb the cost was not earmarked for any other projects or equipment.
There are currently 525 international students in the school district, but only around half of them are in the district on a study permit and would need to register and pay for MSP, said Pochop.
Going forward, she added, the district will be registering international students who need to be enrolled in the plan, but the cost will be covered by an increase in tuition fees.
There will be no ongoing additional cost to the district, she said.