Newcomb Central Superintendent Skip Hults talked about the many benefits of an international student program at the ILCS school board meeting Nov. 15.
International students may become as commonplace in Indian Lake as they are in Newcomb if an initiative to build a program there is successful.
At their Nov. 15 meeting, the school board approved the $980 expense of filing an application to make ILCS eligible to accept F-1 students. Also during the meeting, Newcomb Central Superintendent Skip Hults spoke about his program.
ILCS Superintendent Mark Brand said, “We have an underused school, we can absorb a few more students.”
When he started as school superintendent, Indian Lake had 213 students. Now, Brand said, there are 157.
Though they have fewer students now, the school has the same amount of teachers and the same spacious campus.
Athletic Director John Rathbun noted that school sports teams are getting harder to fill. Keene recently announced that they couldn't fill a basketball roster, and asked to be removed from competition schedules.
It's not simply school programs that shrink, said Hults; the youth culture in towns can suffer. Newcomb's international program does a lot for the teen social scene. Dating wasn't a thing when Hults began at Newcomb. All the kids grew up together, so their outlook on dating lifelong friends was “eww, she's like my sister,” said Hults. Those sort of hang-ups don't exist when a dating interest grows up 4,000 miles away.
The students who come to Newcomb study on F-1 study visas.
“Academically, they're the cream of the cream,” said Hults.
Bringing these high-performing international students here can drive locals to make that extra push for higher grades. A Newcomb student who did well in math worked harder when visiting students offered stiff competition in physics. The Newcombite came out on top.
“Hults is amplifying the Newcomb students experience in school,” said school board President John Voorhees.
All these benefits can be had in other local schools that adopt such a program, Hults said. Students' families see the North Country as a destination. It's a safe community and the schools can provide much more attention to each student.
“I've never meant anything to be done for my school alone,” said Hults.
Newcomb carefully monitors its expenses, and they find that though they expected visiting students to be revenue neutral in costs, they're actually a revenue boost.
Hults' school provides a teacher for English as a second language, though they're not required to. The salary for the part-time position is completely covered by visiting student tuition, he said.
“It's the perfect response to the problems that we face in these micro-districts,” said Voorhees.
It will take a little time to begin the program, said Hults. His school started with cultural exchange J-1 students, but the F-1 visa is how they bring students in now. The F-1 visa is the same type college students use.
The biggest hurdle in being reviewed for F-1 students is waiting for an official to show up at the school to verify its credentials. It took nine months before someone could come to Newcomb.
“It's the federal government, and they don't fast track,” said Hults.
At the close of the meeting, Voorhees said he expected greater turnout for a program school administration is so excited for.
“I'm a little disappointed that there weren't more families here tonight,” he said.
Getting enough hosts is one of the large problems an international program faces in a small town. Hults said that's the biggest limitation Newcomb has in bringing in students. He had several hundred inquiries last year, but could not house them. His school is pursuing a dormitory for visiting students.