Trinity Western University proved to be the answer to a prayer for Langley School District last summer.
The public school district hired the private Christian university to offer programs to its students from around the world, because the International Student summer program, a source of revenue for the district, could not be offered during the teacher job dispute.
TWU provided the summer school for about 220 ISP students, costing the district about $296,890.
â€œIt was imperative that we find an alternative,â€ said Barry Bunyan, the district director for the international student program.
The district, which runs the summer program for students from outside Canada, didnâ€™t want the late cancellation to hurt its image abroad and impact future prospects.
The English language camps, as the district calls ISP summer school, feature three weeks of language classes in the morning and activities and field trips in the afternoons, he explained.
The program runs two camps for ages 10-18. The July 2014 camp had about 170 kids with about 50 signed up for the August camp.
â€œWe had to cancel our summer camp,â€ Bunyan said.
In June the district decided it couldnâ€™t offer the camps but camp families had already made commitments so the district gave parents the option to have their kids attend the TWU camp or get a refund. Bunyan explained the TWU camp is run for the same ages and in a similar fashion.
Bunyan said no parents asked for a refund and the camp didnâ€™t include religion.
TWU used its own staff, medical coverage and amenities, but the kids used the home stays already arranged by the school district.
Bunyan explained that lots of international families use the summer camp as a way to see if their children want to come to Langley for the school year. Many from the summer program end up in the program during the school year.
The teacher job action also meant the district had to make changes in the school program.
The district has approximately 740 international students or 655 full-time equivalent this school year. Most stay the full year with some staying a semester and a very few staying a matter of weeks.
Because the school year didnâ€™t start in September as normal, the district provided $310,000 in refunds to about 650 families.
â€œWe provided people compensation for that time,â€ he said.
Bunyan explained that families from other countries live in different labour environments from Canada so the refund was a goodwill gesture to save its reputation. â€œEveryone got the same [amount],â€ he said.
As well, the district provided some activities for the international students.
â€œEvery district in the Lower Mainland has an International Student Program,â€ he said. â€œSome districts gave it [compensation], some didnâ€™t.â€
The school board went over the amended budget at its Feb. 24 meeting. Because of the teacher job action and other budgetary items, the figures for this school year had to be amended.
The district has budgeted for $261,000 in tuition revenue from the ISP summer program and $7.65 million for the ISP regular school year session but has amended the budget, now expecting an additional $300,000 from those because of increasing student numbers.
The district started welcoming international students in 1989, with arrangements made school by school.
â€œLangley was one of the first districts in B.C.,â€ Bunyan said.
The program continues to grow and the extra revenue helps the district bottom line. He said the declining Canadian dollar helps with the exchange rate but thatâ€™s not typically the main reason why a family in another country would choose to send their children to Canada for schooling.
Bunyan said the majority of international students come from Asian countries but the district is working to broaden the program to encourage students from other continents.