The number of children enrolled in the Delta School District fell again this September, with 185 fewer bodies from the previous year. The biggest losses came in secondary schools, with 221 fewer students across all of Delta. About half of that number was lost in North Delta’s high schools.
Elementary schools, however, saw modest increases of 36 children across the entire district, almost all of them in Ladner. Deputy Supterintendent Garnet Ayres identified that as a positive sign for enrollment trends down the road. What is growing, however, is the number of international students in Delta’s schools. There are 462 international students–415 of them in secondary schools–across the district, representing three per cent of the 15,621 total. Deirdre Annette, director of international programs for the district, told the school board Tuesday evening that the program has exceeded its budget by $1.7 million, with record revenues and enrollment numbers.
There were 173 international students in summer school across the district in 2013, representing $138,400 in revenue, and an increase of nearly half from the previous year. That represents a 246 per cent jump from 2011, and more than ten-fold the number from 2010.
Annette attributed the increase to active recruitment in existing partner countries as well as forays into new markets like Turkey, Vietnam, Thailand, Ukraine, and Poland. She said a group of 15 students from Myanmar is expected to come to Delta in 2014.
The district is working on signing an agreement with Chile and Brazil to bring 100 children here on government scholarship programs for low-income families.
“We’ve been ironing out the kinks over the years of troubles we’ve had in the past,” said Annette, adding students who aren’t the right fit for the program are sent home and reimbursed.
That has left positive word-of-mouth for both the international program and home stay parents, who have helped the district by accepting students into their homes.
However, Trustee Simon Truelove expressed concern about working with governments that have had human rights problems in the past, such as Myanmar.
“I’m starting to get a touch of anxiety because it’s expanding to parts of the world I wasn’t expecting,” he said.
But Annette said it could be helpful to expose children from countries like Myanmar to the positives of Canadian society and democracy, perhaps influencing the next generation.
“Those would be the power brokers and what if they didn’t come here and they just stayed in their world?”
China represents the largest market of students arriving in Delta, and Annette suggested she may cap numbers from that country in order to maintain a diversity in the program. She said she’s not concerned about limiting the number of international students in Delta just yet, pointing out that other school districts have a far higher ratio of international students. Roughly 800 international students come through the Delta School District each year, representing a revenue of stream of $4.7 million last year.