Schenectady County

Niskayuna school board to consider foreign student program

School board members are expected to hear more about a possible program to bring additional internat

School board members are expected to hear more about a possible program to bring additional international students to the Niskayuna Central School District.

District officials say the move could give Niskayuna students more exposure to students from other cultures and could bring in some additional revenue at the same time.

Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio said Wednesday she hopes to make a presentation to the board next month, possibly at its Sept. 11 meeting.

The board has already had some discussions on the idea and even applied for the special federal status needed to run such a program. Board members now must decide whether to pursue it and have it ready to go for the 2014-15 school year.

Based on discussions the board has already had, member Robert Winchester said he is interested in the program but wants to make sure the district’s traditional foreign exchange program is not impacted. The traditional program, he said, provides access to families who might not otherwise be able to send a child.

The proposed program also must be self-sufficient, he said.

“I think that that’s important to the program,” Winchester said. “It cannot cost the district money, and, as it progresses, it has to bring in some revenue.”

“I do not expect this to be a major source of revenue, but every bit helps,” he added.

Salvaggio noted the sense from the board to continue the regular foreign exchange program, with students coming through organizations and not paying tuition. With that, both programs would run side-by-side.

The students in the proposed international program would actually come into the country under a different immigration visa program, she said, and the district must apply to federal immigration officials to take part in it.

Discussions about the program began during last spring’s budget process, as the district worked on closing a large budget gap and sought out future sources of revenue. It was then that the board approved applying for the federal status, a process that can take as much as 10 months.

Niskayuna would be following other school districts in the state already offering the program. One of the earliest to start its program was the Newcomb Central School District in Essex County. Berne-Knox-Westerlo in Albany County and Red Creek in Wayne County also have programs going, officials have said.

Exactly how much the district would charge students or how many students the district would accept are details still to be determined. Salvaggio said she is gathering information from different districts to bring to the board.

Other districts, Salvaggio said, are also looking into the program, but Niskayuna could be perfect for such an effort, to bring a truly international experience to both Niskayuna students and those from abroad.

“We think we’re in a pretty unique position to do that with the community and the relationships we have already,” she said.

The foreign students would typically stay a year. The same organizations the district works with for its traditional foreign exchange program have also helped other districts find students for the new program, Salvaggio said.

After the presentation next month, Winchester said the board could vote on a full proposal by the end of December.

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