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Starting the conversation

An effort to bring an international school program to Parksville is gaining momentum.

Representatives from the International Sustainability Education Foundation — one of two Vancouver-based private companies leading the project — spent last week in Parksville meeting with School District 69 officials, including superintendent Rollie Koop.

The other private partner is Wetegrity Investment Group, which has provided $100,000 in start-up funding and has earmarked $1.5 million to come. SD 69 will contribute a site lease and staff time.

According to a news release issued by the school district, what has been deemed "The Parksville International Academy" will offer short-duration, English-language programs for school-age students and academic English-language programs for adults. Additionally, partners are looking to start a cross-country program seeing international students travel between Canadian universities in an effort to promote Canadian post-secondary schools.

Koop said the partners want to "establish Parksville Qualicum Beach as a place for international conversation about sustainability and practice."

He said partners discussed last week creating an outdoor recreation program for international students similar to the existing ROAMS program.

"We're a sell," said Koop, of the outdoor activities Parksville Qualicum Beach has to offer. He said there has been dialog about tapping into local golf courses and places like Horne Lake Caves as "economic components that parallel tourism in some respect."

Koop said while the project is in "preliminary stages" some ideas may come to fruition as early as January 2015, such as the post-secondary program.

Moreover, Koop said partners discussed hosting two community events — one slated for late summer and the other for early winter — where sustainability will be the primary topic of conversation.

"We're going to bring in some top notch thinkers on sustainability," he said. "People will be impressed with the quality of the folks we're bringing into the community (to talk about sustainability and education)."

While the site of the academy is not yet secured, Koop said the idea is to repurpose Parksville Elementary, one of four district elementary schools closing this year, into a residential village made up of cottages to accommodate students while they are here.

Koop said the community response has been good so far.

"Certainly there is a level of excitement of the potential of having more students come into our community," he said. "We (SD 69) are committed to working together to find options to establish our community as a place of sound education and sustainability and to share that with the world."

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