WCPS student ambassadors along with their Chinese exchange students pose in the picture perfect Rocky Mountains during one of the many trips the group made to showcase Canada. Image: WCPS

WCPS starting plans on international learning opportunities

Initial project with Chinese school district a success

Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) is following through on its plans to further the educational experiences of its students by connecting with other cultures and languages.

Assistant superintendent Mark McWhinnie, along with learning services director Sean Lougheed provided the board of trustees with an update at its meeting Sept. 6 regarding the planned expansion of the program.

Last year, the school division found through a survey that parents, students and staff felt that everyone would benefit from an exchange with other countries within an educational context.

That idea came to fruition after WCPS representatives made a trip to China and signed a deal that saw at total of 64 Chinese students from Guangdong come to Lacombe to learn.

The feedback from everyone involved in the summer exchange was positive. That included 93 per cent of the homestay families who felt the communication with them was very strong to excellent and all of the homestay parents said they would recommend the program to others. As well, all of the local students who acted as ambassadors would do so again.

The project went so well that WCPS was asked if it wanted to explore other partnerships with another district in China, plus one in India.

McWhinnie noted the success was spread by social media and word of mouth, which helped generate the interest.

The International Learning Program (ILP) will now look at including both short (two weeks to one month) and long (five or 10 months) programs at the Grade 4/5 level as well as for junior and senior high students. There is also a potential of opening it up to parents wanting to attend post-secondary school and have children that can attend early years programming.

In June, WCPS hosted representatives of schools interested in exposing their students to the array of experiences here. That is currently being followed up by McWhinnie and Lougheed, who left on a two week trip to visit India and China for meetings and possible signing of exchange agreements.

WCPS superintendent Jayson Lovell stated, “The board was very appreciative of the update on the program and the plan to expand it over the next year. They value providing our students with new cultural and educational opportunities.”

For the future

The program has been designed to directly offset any expenses incurred — from tuition to activities and homestay expenses — while also providing revenue to WCPS that will help subsidize its students that will be participating in the overseas exchange.

McWhinnie noted the summer program was anticipated to bring in about $20,000 in revenue

Meanwhile, it’s projected that WCPS could generate substantial revenue from future visits — depending on the number of students and the length of visit. After expenses, a two week visit could bring around $20,000 with the five to 10 month program taking in between $271,000 and $900,000.

WCPS is planning on hosting students from India later this year with two groups from China slated to arrive in February and one group each from China and India coming in April.

On the other hand, a group of 20 WCPS students will be heading to Gaungzhou, China next March. An application process for students will begin shortly and approved applicants will start work on courses such as culture, tourism and language to prepare for the trip.

Wolf Creek Public Schools

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WCPS student ambassadors stand with their Chinese exchange students on the Athabasca Glacier and pose for a photo op, just one of the varied experiences the program provides to learn about Canada. Image: WCPS

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