The numbers are down due to COVID-19, but many remained in Delta this summer and are heading back to school.
The school district’s international student program has taken an expected hit due to the pandemic with 287 students currently registered.
That’s down from around 750 who were registered full-time last year, including 400 new students.
This year sees just 19 new students, all having going through a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Program director Karen Symonds told the Optimist the Delta school district was on a national panel of district programs that coordinated and put together arrival and quarantine protocols for elementary and high school students, a program reviewed by Fraser Health and the Ministry of Education.
It has become an industry standard for safe arrivals and safe, supported quarantine practices for students and homestay families, she said.
The district is in contact with quarantined students multiple times daily and try to keep them engaged, she noted.
As far as returning international students, due to travel restrictions, most remained in Delta during the summer months instead of returning to their home nations.
The district, which runs its own home stay program, tried to keep them busy with summer school and other activities.
“It does speak to the importance of this educational opportunity for the kids and parents to persevere through these difficult times,” added Symonds. “Even until last week when the travel bans were renewed, there were so many parents still holding on to hope that they would be able to arrive for September and attend school and live in Delta. There’s certainly that desire there.
“We never in our program want what we do to be at the detriment to our community and our schools. The public health concerns are out there and there’s perceptions out there that international students coming to Delta could be putting our schools at risk, our families at risk and our communities and risk, but that’s certainly not the case. Numbers-wise, that’s not the case and we certainly put in a lot of precautions that the kids are healthy and are compliant with quarantine orders.”
Fifty returning students did go home for the summer, but went through the process of returning safely.
The new students are not just coming from Asian countries, but also places like Germany, which in recent years had as many as 60 students annually, but this year has just one, as well as Spain and Mexico.
During the previous five years the program demographic has been shifting, with more students from Europe and South America making up larger proportions than they had in the past.
Most of the international students in Delta came from China, South Korea, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Vietnam and even Italy. The district notes diversity is seen as important in order to maintain a healthy and strong program.
In 2018/19 the district made more than $7 million net from the program.