Ecole Kelowna Secondary School is a popular destination of choice for international students. (Contributed)

International student enrolment reduction for overcrowded Kelowna high school

Ecole Kelowna Secondary to see drop from 65 to 50 international students for 2022-23 school year

The Central Okanagan Board of Education has approved a reduction of international students attending ÉcoleKelowna Secondary (KSS) from 65 to 50 full-time equivalents for the 2022-23 school year.

The reduction is a response to the enrolment pressure currently facing KSS.

Other measures already in place to address that pressure include establishing a French Immersion program at Okanagan-Mission Secondary for students in that school’s catchment area who otherwise would have attended KSS, and a move still under discussion to redirect incoming Westside FI students from KSS to Mt. Boucherie Secondary.

This school year, KSS has 58 FTEs from the school district’s International Education Program, stopping short of filling the 65 FTE cap in order to provide an opportunity for short-term students to extend to a second semester while still maintaining the board-approved cap level.

Last spring, the school trustees raised concerns about international students filling up potential spaces that otherwise could go to resident students at a time when KSS enrolment had reached a crisis stage.

Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, said managing the IED program is a complex business, trying to balance the desires of incoming international students where program capacity exists.

Part of that, he says, is ensuring no classroom spaces are lost to domestic students needing full schedule credits to graduate.

“In some cases, these students help fill out programs that otherwise could not be offered to resident students due to a lack of enrolment,” Kaardal said.

He also noted the ongoing evolution of Central Okanagan secondary schools as Grade 9-12 will also have student enrolment shift implications for schools across the district, which could potentially further lower the FTE cap for KSS in the next school year.

On the business side, the program is also a revenue generator for the school district, with that revenue directed to support school programs otherwise not funded in the budget, such as enrichment programs and initiatives to assist new students and families who have recently arrived in Canada.

A school district staff report says since its inception, the program has generated $30 million of net income to subsidize other education programs. It is budgeted to generate a net income of almost $3.5 million for the 2021-22 school year.

For the 2019-20 school year, students in the program represented 33 countries and jurisdictions, the largest contingent coming from Germany, Japan, Mexico, Italy, China and Spain.

“The district’s approach is different than other similar-sized districts where there is a heavy reliance on only one or two markets to create a larger program,” said the school district staff report.

The reliance on international students came to light during COVID when travel restrictions limited international student travel, causing a significant financial revenue deficit for many B.C. school districts to overcome.

The board of education also adopted a resolution last spring to review the cap on international students at KSS by mid-October of each school year as long as student enrolment capacity issues persist at the secondary school.

READ MORE: COVID-19 generates cost reduction for Central Okanagan School District