Foreign students crammed in District 69 home

Some of these Korean youngsters were living in a basement with no windows

Nineteen Korean children and their supervisors were living in a single family home in Nanoose Bay earlier this year as part of District 69’s International Student Program (ISP).

The issue of “dormitory homes” used for housing international students came to light recently when the district released an ISP review, which was contracted to a consultant. The consultant raised a number of concerns in the review regarding the houses, which are apparently in both Bowser and Nanoose Bay.

The consultant reported the district has signed an exclusive contract with one individual for all Korean recruiting, and this agent is officially in charge of the management of the Korean students. The consultant’s other concerns included lack of house inspections by the homestay coordinator and criminal record checks being done on supervisors.

Tom Armet, manager of building, bylaw and emergency planning at the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) said the RDN became involved as a result of a community inquiry into the Nanoose Bay home in January of this year, and he sent staff to inspect the home.

Armet said there were some children housed in the basement without proper windows for egress so they had to be moved to other areas of the house.

See KERSHAW, page A6

Some other minor changes were also made to meet building and safety codes, Armet said, adding there were a number of safety features already in place.

In talking with the property owners, RDN staff understood that some of these children would possibly be moved to other family homes, but nothing was confirmed. Armet said although RDN staff have ensured the children are safe he still has concerns about the situation.

“While we were satisfied with changes made with the health and safety aspects of the building from a code perspective, we are still not entirely satisfied that the use of that property is in fitting with our zoning regulations, so that matter is still being reviewed by the RDN.”

Superintendent with the district, Jim Ansell, said the ISP review was conducted because the district knew there were some areas of the ISP that needed to be looked at. He said the review raised some questions for him but he’s pleased with what he’s heard from staff and now it’s about fine tuning. He didn’t have specific details about the dormitory homes but said the number of students in the homes and the ages of the children change depending on enrollment. Having a dormitory home for Koreans wasn’t unusual, he said, having spent time in Korea himself he said he understood it is often a preference of the students.

“It’s one of those things that is very cultural,” he said, adding students get a chance to work together on Korean curriculum among other things.

Board chair Lynette Kershaw said the information the board received about the dormitory homes are part of the review process.

“The Korean dormitory situation is working really well for those children,” she said. “It’s just an integral part of the entire report that we will be looking at.”

Ansell said the district takes very seriously their obligation to ensure the safety of children in the program, but as it stands the accommodations have been in the hands of the agent.

“We’re working on creating a really clear understanding with our agent right now and there are concerns about whether we want to be part of the (accommodation) process.”

Beside the safety and building code changes, Ansell said criminal record checks are either done or in the process of being done.

Kershaw said it was a good time to review the ISP but what is critical to note is that the review is one person’s opinion. She said it behooves the board now to go through the report with employees, stakeholder groups and the community to find out exactly what they want to get out of it. But the ISP program will continue, she said.

“It’s a wonderful program. It brings diversity into our schools, cross cultural opportunities, [and] it gives our students the opportunity to travel abroad.With anything in the school district there comes a point in time where reviews are good, reviews are necessary.”