The settlement of the teachers’ strike will help the local school district attract more and retain international students, increasing revenue, but whether some were lost due to the labour dispute won’t be known until classes resume.
International students are a major source of funding for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District – one of the only significant sources of income outside of funding from the provincial government.
There are some 500 international students in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district, the majority in secondary schools and 90 elementary.
Their tuition is budgeted to bring the board $4.2 million in fees this school year.
Of that, $1.6 million is revenue.
“Given that we’re anticipating an estimated budget shortfall of $2.5 million for next year, adding another $1.6 million to this amount would certainly have a significant impact,” noted district communications manager Irena Pochop.
She was not aware of any international students withdrawing from classes in School District 42.
“We don’t know yet what our final numbers will look like. Some haven’t arrived yet and may not. We won’t know the extent of the damage our program may have suffered until school resumes.”
The international students who did arrive have been attending classes at Riverside Centre while the strike was underway, with instruction offered by administrators.
The financial benefits of hosting international students goes beyond the education system, as many host families benefit in their household income. Pochop said an additional $1.9 million goes to local homestay families in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
“Beyond any students we may lose this year as a result of the strike, there is also the worry about the long-term impact on international education programs province-wide,” said Pochop. “If the reputation of B.C.’s international education programs suffers, B.C. school districts may have trouble attracting international students in future years.”
She said the board prepared interim programming, run by principals and vice-principals, for the international students. It is not focused on the B.C. curriculum and does not include assessment, but intended to help prepare the students for the coming school year.