School District 83 is looking to expand its international student program this fall.
Launched this current school term amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions limited the enrolment to eight international students this year, with the hope to expand that to more than 25 for the 2021-22 school term.
Ranging in age from Grade 10 to 12, most will be in Salmon Arm and a smaller number will be in Armstrong.
The limiting factor on enrolment is recruiting homestay hosts willing to have students stay at their home during their time here, which can range from a full 10-month school term to three or six month stays.
Rob MacAulay, district principal overseeing the international student program, said homestay parents receive $850 per month to off-set added expenses and benefit from the cultural experience introduced into their home and their families.
“We are being very careful how fast we expand this. We are being very selective about students we are bringing in to ensure we can provide a good match for homestay families and for our community,” said MacAulay, adding all COVID health protocols will be adhered to.
“We are not a big city here so if students are looking for that, we are not the match for them. We are looking for students looking for a small town lifestyle and outdoors experiences, something that we offers in spades here.”
COVID interrupted MacAulay’s initial recruiting process last year, but so far Salmon Arm has forged recruiting relationships for students from Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium.
“We will be looking to bring in students from other countries as things begin to calm down a bit,” MacAulay said in reference to the pandemic’s impact on health and travel restrictions.
Growing the program will depend on the interest of local residents to become homestay parents.
With the program having been established in many other school districts across the province, MacAulay said he has gained insight from his counterparts about lessons they have learned along the way.
While the program generates revenue for school districts to provide additional services to students not otherwise allocated in the school district budget, MacAulay said exposure for homestay families and other students to teenagers from different cultures is also beneficial to the community.
Homestay parents can learn more information or submit an application online at isp.sd83.bc.ca, or call 250-832-2157 to connect with the international student program office.