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WCSD Board nixes proposal to eliminate foreign exchange students

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The Warren County School District board shot down a proposal to eliminate foreign exchange students in the WCSD. Board members in the photo, from left, include Mary Passinger, Kevin Lindvay and John Wortman.

Warren County School District administration brought a proposal to the school board Monday to prohibit foreign exchange students in the district.

The board rejected the policy change.

The proposal struck the existing policy language and replaced it with one sentence: “Commencing with the 2024/2025 school year, the Warren County School District will not accept any foreign exchange students.”

Superintendent Gary Weber said the district had “really good experience 15 to 20 years ago.

“We’ve had very, very few in recent years,” he said. “I think the problem that we’ve seen in recent years, (hosting a foreign exchange student) becomes a cash grab for a family to bring a student over. They’re getting money to have the student here” and “not in a good environment. I could count on one hand the number we’ve had in the last 10 years.”

He also cited the cost that comes with providing English as a second language (ESL) instruction.

“It becomes very costly for the district,” he said. “When we ran into that part of it, I think the best thing is not to do it at all until they come out with a better way of handling it.”

Board member Mary Passinger asked whether the district has someone who teaches ESL. Weber said the district has had people and has also contracted with the Intermediate Unit for the service.

“We’re now getting a lot more kids in the district that need ESL,” he said.

Board member John Wortman said he is concerned about the finality of the actions, calling it “high unlikely” it will ever be reversed.

He said foreign exchange student programs can bring “extraordinary benefit” and said he’d hope there would be people wanting to host students from the Warren County School District if they wanted to study abroad.

Board member Tammi Holden asked how the district can make this move if it is required to provide education to any student living in Warren County.

“Can we deny them? Yes, absolutely,” Weber said. “We have to approve any foreign exchange students…. It has to be an approved program which is another very difficult thing for people to do.

On the proposed change more generally, Weber said that “it’s really not eliminating anything we’ve had much of.”

The vote on the change failed. Kevin Lindvay, Paul Mangione and Mary Passinger voted yes while Holden, Wortman, Stephanie Snell and Daniel Sullivan voted in opposition.

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