School District 71’s International Student Program is getting a new home.
The board of education passed a motion at the latest meeting, held Oct. 27, to approve the purchase and installation of a modular building to serve as the future home for the program.
Currently, the program operates out of Lake Trail Middle School, which is undergoing significant work in time for the next school year.
“That school is undergoing significant changes,” said director of operations Ian Heselgrave.
His report to the board indicates the new site of the Lake Trail school is to be done by the end of June, 2021. Any salvageable furniture and effects will be moved out of the old school building to prepare for demolition. The International Student Program has three offices at the site.
The new configuration will not be geared toward providing business or office space for the international program.
The district also does not have another option at other facilities, as the staff report notes that rapid growth in the district, along with class sizes and configurations, means there is no appropriate place to move the program.
“We don’t really have a school in the Valley that has a lot of additional space available,” Heselgrave said. “We need a home for them.”
The program has eight staff members and space requirements of about 1,600 square feet. It will need four offices and additional room space for administration, reception, meetings, restrooms and a kitchen.
The report highlighted two options for the board. One is the modular building, which is estimated to cost about $370,000 for building and installation. The alternative is to lease space. Estimates for minimal space range from $24,000 to $45,000 a year, with costs likely exceeding $45,000 for more desirable space. Over the long term, it is expected the lease option will cost more. The recommendation to the board was to add a modular building on school district property.
Board chair Sheila McDonnell asked about a possible location and if there was a process to identify a site. Heselgrave responded that staff will work with some senior educators and the district principal for the program. Georges P. Vanier Secondary is one of the preferred sites right now, though they are a couple of other potential locations.
McDonnell also asked about murals representing many countries at the current location and whether these could be preserved.
“They are really special, if anyone hasn’t seen them,” she told the rest of the board.
Heselgrave said their hope is to reproduce the artwork in some way at a new site.
“They really do need a presence because they often have representatives from other countries come and visit,” he said.
International Student Program numbers have been affected in the short term by the coronavirus pandemic, but it has experienced growth in recent years.