Proposed international student levy concerns Comox Valley trustees

The Ministry of Education will meet with school districts about its International Education Strategy, which proposes a levy on international students coming to B.C.

The matter first came up at the December Comox Valley Board of Education meeting, and the board sent a letter to the Ministry outlining its concerns.

"We are concerned about the proposed levy for every international student," wrote Trustee Tom Weber, board chair. "This levy, which is to be taken from each school district's current International Education operating budget, is a new unfunded liability."

He also outlined a concern that B.C. school districts offering international programs could lose their competitive edge against competitor countries — like the U.K., Australia and the U.S. — if they have to charge an extra levy on each student coming to their district to give to the Ministry.

During Tuesday's board meeting, Comox Valley School District superintendent Sherry Elwood noted other districts with international programs — of which there are 24 in B.C. — wrote similar letters, and the Ministry will hold regional meetings with these districts in the spring in response.

"I didn't read into that, that there has been a change in the request but there is a willingness to meet," she said. "At least there will be a discussion and a conversation about the government's plans for international funding going back to the Ministry and we'll be well represented there."

About 215 to 225 international students are expected to come through the Comox Valley International Student Program by the end of this school year.

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Trustees approved a one-time grant of $10,000 toward an initiative called Active Student Travel.

The grant is subject to other organizations contributing $20,000 by the end of June for the initiative, which would cost $30,000 for one year.

The initiative is designed to include various other organizations like local municipalities and "support school communities to have more active travel, as part of creating safer, healthier schools," according to a report by trustee Sheila McDonnell, who is chair of the transportation committee.

Trustee Rick Grinham expressed concern over the expenditure, noting the funds would come out of the transportation budget, which was already short during the past few years.

District secretary/treasurer Russell Horswill said the funds could come out another area of the district's budget if the transportation budget goes over again.

The recommendation was carried with Grinham opposed. Trustee Janice Caton abstained.

• • •

The school district continues to improve its emergency preparedness plans.

Paul Berry, district principal of health and safety, updated the board noting new a VHF emergency communications system has been purchased and the equipment should arrive this week.

He also said all school sites continue to review and augment emergency preparedness supplies with a goal of basic supplies for all sites by January 2014.

He outlined a comprehensive emergency preparedness program called Hour Zero, which provides common language, site-based resources, inventories, skill management, training, communications, emergency responder access and district level oversight. He suggested this program be tied to the budget cycle over the next three years.


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