The pandemic is putting a dent into School District 47’s International Education program.
Last year, the district saw its highest number of international education student registrations, with 97 students from 18 countries.
This year, there are 24 students from just seven countries.
COVID-19 has presented challenges for the program.
Only students who had visas in place before March 2020 could register, and while 11 stayed in Powell River after the 2019/2020 school year ended, the rest will return from their home countries, only if they can fulfil all travel and quarantine requirements.
The district says its international program is one of the oldest and most successful ones of its kind, in the province.
It boasts a graduation rate well above the provincial average, with most graduates going on to attend post-secondary institutions all over the world.
“We are pleased to safely welcome back our international students to continue their studies with School District 47,” said Shannon Behan, District Principal for International Education.
“British Columbia’s education system usually ranks in the top four worldwide, which is why we have become a destination for international students. We are global thinkers who are progressive and creative, and international students help bring diversity to our schools and community.”
According to the district, the program’s students appreciate the opportunities available to further their education in Powell River.
“I am excited to be entering Grade 12 at Brooks this year, and to see all my old friends again,” said Yoana Lanto, a student from Madagascar who has been studying in Powell River since 2017.
“I am grateful to the Government of Canada, School District 47, and all the people in Powell River who have always welcomed me and have made this my second home. I am also grateful for the support of my Canadian host family, Bill and Hazel Richman, who has always been so kind and welcoming.”
“We are stringently adhering to all protocols from the Provincial Health Officer,” said Behan. “Students will quarantine in their home country for two weeks, and have a negative COVID-19 test before traveling. After they arrive in Canada, they will be tested again and will quarantine for an additional two weeks to ensure that they have not become infected during travel. Both the students and their host families will work together to make the quarantine and their reintroduction to Canada as smooth as possible.”
Students have been encouraged to make travel arrangements to arrive in Powell River by Aug. 25th so that their quarantine period will be over in time for classes to begin.
“We also recognize that airport closures and flight delays may occur, so we are being flexible while still adhering to all self-isolation protocols,” said district superintendent, Jay Yule. “Host families have been connecting with the students via phone and video to establish relationships, and will follow the same types of protocols the families of health care workers follow to make the quarantine period safe for all members of the household.”
Yule encouraged Powell River to open their arms to this year’s international student cohort.
“There will be a smaller number of international students in Powell River this year, so their community of support will be a little smaller,” he said. “I know the people of Powell River and School District 47 will help make their experience in Powell River this year wonderful, and give them all the support they need.”