The Sooke School District is taking a considerable hit to its budget due to lack of international students attending class this fall.
School district board Ravi Parmar said the district expects to lose about $2 million in funding. The international program is anticipating around 60 students to attend the new school term.
“We will still run the program in the fall, so long as we are able to meet the guidelines set by health authorities, and ensure the students are able to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive,” said Parmar. “But we are still working on the details and gathering information.”
Schools superintendent Scott Stinson said the 60 students planning to return are made up of 25 who are already here and will stay through summer, and 35 who have existing study visas and documentation in place, and will return as long as they are able to travel.
In previous years, the program generally sees between 280 and 300 students from all over the world, bringing in around $6 million in funding to the school district.
Parmar said $4 million goes towards running the program, but the other $2 million goes directly towards supplementing classrooms.
“It is unfortunate to lose that funding but we are thankful to have a rainy day fund to get through this,” said Parmar. “We are being cautious looking in to the future, but we are also optimistic.”
The school district has an approximate $149-million budget, and Stinson said nothing had to be cut from it for this fall, thanks to the reserved fund.
“What we have done this year is limit our expenditures, and put as much funding aside as possible. We believe we will be able to get through next year without any reductions,” he said. “We just want to bridge this year and then as time goes on we will make more decisions on how to manage financially.”
Stinson said he is slightly concerned with all of the unknowns, as it makes planning for the future difficult, but noted staff throughout the school district has been “amazingly resilient,” and students, families have been “particularly good at being flexible to change.”
“We are planning for a variety of contingencies in terms of what things could look like in the fall, and we have to be ready and prepared for whatever comes,” said Stinson.
Parmar said that over the years, the international exchange student program has become extremely diverse, and he hopes that things will pick up again in 2021.
“The international department has done a great job in recruiting,” said Parmar. “Students are not just coming for academic reasons, but also for art and recreation, and it certainly has put us on the map for opportunity.”