New school board.
Same old policy — at least when it comes to Payson’s mostly extinct foreign exchange program.
Once upon a time, Payson had a booming foreign exchange student program, with up to 18 students from Australia, Japan, China, Germany, Austria, France, Great Britain and other far-flung places mingling with home-grown Payson students all year long.
But some years ago, the school board decided to start charging the foreign students $5,000 per year in tuition, since the district gets no money from the state to cover the cost of exchange students. The board also put a five-student cap on the program.
Within a year, the program collapsed.
The district had no students at all for several years. The program has attracted a total of five tuition-paying students in the past two years.
After a brief report on the moribund program, the three new board members joined with board members Barbara Underwood and Shane Keith to continue the program unchanged for the 2019-20 school year.
Superintendent Greg Wyman reported the district had looked into participating in a federal visa program that might help recruit more students, but opted not to pay the $2,300 fee to participate in the program, which also entailed lots of paperwork.
Underwood said “it takes somebody from the community to be in charge of doing this — the people who used to do it are no longer in charge.”
Keith noted the program really doesn’t need a cap. “I would prefer to find the balance. There is value to having this.”
But Underwood said, “The year we had 18, we felt like it was their own little community. The whole idea is for them to get out and mingle with our students.”
During the heyday of the program the foreign students staged events like an international food festival, working through the culinary arts program. Students also formed international friendships, that continued when the foreign students returned home.
“There is some cost to us,” said Kathie Manning, the district’s chief financial officer. “The board recognized there is a value to our students.”
“But in the last couple of years, we’ve had zero or one or two,” said Keith.
The board then voted unanimously to leave both the $5,000 tuition and the five-student cap in place.