Parksville’s international school project is in limbo.
Despite initial momentum and community support for the public-private partnership — including a letter of intent signed by School District 69 and the City of Parksville and a $100,000 donation from a Vancouver-based company — Parksville’s international school idea is experiencing a “kink” in the system.
“There’s a little kink,” Ivan Chow, Vancouver-based Wetegrity representative told The NEWS Wednesday morning. “B.C.’s provincial nomination program (PNP) is being put on hold.”
Chow explains the PNP encourages out-of-country investors to invest in local regions such as Parksville Qualicum Beach in an effort to bolster economic activity.
However, according to B.C.’s PNP website: “Effective immediately, B.C. PNP is temporarily pausing program intake for 90 days in order to introduce a new streamlined application process and program criteria. The PNP will reopen to new applications with a redesigned process in July 2015.”
Chow said this will affect the future of Parksville’s International Academy and investors are waiting to see what changes are made this summer before moving forward.
Asked when residents can expect, if ever, an international school in Parksville, Chow said: “it really depends on the PNP program… it could be, say, six months to three years.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Ambassador Program (CAP) that was slated to start this past January — but didn’t — is in a state of flux as well.
The idea was to bring together 15 local students and 15 international students to visit universities across the country with the hope that international students will choose to study post-secondary in Canada. School District 69 Superintendant Rollie Koop earlier described it as a “classroom moving across the country.” It would have cost domestic students $1,500 and international students $35,000 and they were to earn graduation credits.
But Jonathon Reynolds, International Sustainability Education Foundation executive director who has been spearheading the ambassador program, said it didn’t start on time because the School District wasn’t ready.
“There’s been a lot of negotiation with the School District… the negotiation points kept shifting and shifting and shifting, the CAP program was all set up and it’s still there, but we are now negotiating with other school districts, we didn’t seem to get what we needed from School District 69,” Reynolds told The NEWS from Vancouver Wednesday. “I think that it was too quick… we were moving too quick for the school district to get on board.”
Reynolds said he’s received a lot of interest from private schools and public schools across the country for the ambassador program. He said he doesn’t want to limit the program to just one school district and is looking into different approaches that may include various school districts in Canada. Parksville Qualicum Beach may still be one of them.
Reynolds confirmed the $100,000 donation the foundation received from Wetegrity last summer funds various workshops and programs the foundation supports, including workshops related to the international school and ambassador programs in Parksville.
Koop said there were a lot of questions in the air about the ambassador program.
“We made a decision with the ambassador program to slow down a little bit, we got past the point where we could effectively market it and still had questions about pricing and activities,” he said. “It’s more important to us to get things squared away than to get it to market early.”
Koop confirmed the school district is still in conversation with Reynolds about the ambassador program but said it has not committed to a specific timeline.
While he admits the conversation has shifted a lot since the idea for an international school was born in Parksville last year, he maintains optimistic about both the ambassador program and Parksville International Academy.
“Some aspects of the conversation have gone quiet and we’ve shift in focus a little bit but we continue to work together and look at what our best options are,” said Koop.