School still on for international students

International students headed to class in Richmond this week, despite Richmond School District's cancellation of summer school for all other students.

The teachers' ongoing labour dispute forced the district to cancel summer programs last week, but a non-credit program for international students is going ahead on neutral ground.

Hosted this year at Richmond Christian School's No. 5 Road campus, the program is a summer camp for foreign students of various ages. Students learn English, attend field trips and learn about Canada and Richmond, according to Richmond school board chair Donna Sargent.

"They choose to come in the summer just to get to know Richmond a bit more, see what it's like, see if they might be interested in the full-time international program, which happens in September."

Two three-week programs are offered at $1,875 each, according to the district's website.

District officials decided against cancelling the program last week, having already made agreements with parents. Sargent said some students had already arrived.

"They have paid, they are here. So what do you do?"

A call to the Richmond Teachers' Association was not returned by press time, but B.C. Teachers' Federation members protested outside Richmond Christian School Monday, as contract talks between the union and B.C. Public School Employers' Association have stalled.

Last week a B.C. Supreme Court justice concluded this week that teachers and government are too far apart on wages and working conditions for mediation to be effective.

Sargent said both union and non-union teachers are leading the summer camps, but added unionized employees are working under a contract that isn't linked to the current labour dispute.

"The whole situation is very challenging," she said. "We want labour peace, we want both parties at the table bargaining in good faith, and we want them to come up with a reasonable settlement, and we want it to happen as soon as possible."

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