International education continues to be seen as a potential economic cornerstone for Powell River despite last year’s challenges to establish Sino Bright School’s new campus next to Brooks Secondary School, according to City of Powell River mayor Dave Formosa.
Formosa said international education is one part of the city’s larger economic development plan that focuses on expanding educational opportunities for Canadian and international students in Powell River.
“Education overall is an important pillar for our community, not just international education, but we pursue that quite vigorously,” said Formosa.
BC Agricultural Land Commission denied the city’s application for a 30-acre agricultural land reserve exemption for development of Sino Bright’s international campus in November 2016. At that time, local officials were concerned Sino Bright might look to another community to build its campus.
City manager of economic development Scott Randolph confirmed the city has identified a new location for the school and is “working toward opening up an opportunity for them to acquire it,” he said.
“There's still interest in building a larger campus here,” said Randolph.
The land under consideration is not owned by the city, nor is it a part of the agricultural land reserve, said Formosa. The mayor was unable to provide further details.
“We're getting closer, but it's not easy,” said Formosa. “We're hoping to have something soon.”
Based on an economic impact study completed for the Agricultural Land Commission application by Vann Struth Consulting Group, Sino Bright is expected to have significant economic impact on the area with campus construction, operation and spending from students and families who attend the school.
According to the study, the school would bring approximately $10.5 million of activity to Powell River annually and help diversify a local economy that remains heavily reliant on the resource sector and manufacturing.
Meanwhile, School District 47 International Student Program district principal Shannon Behan said the district currently has approximately 80 international students attending classes in elementary and Brooks Secondary schools, but expects the number to climb higher in the spring.
“The program is continuing to grow,” said Behan.
The school district’s program attracts a diverse group of students from 11 different countries around the world who live with homestay families in Powell River where speaking English is the common language.
Behan added that she wants to see the program double in size over the next few years as Powell River continues to develop its program.
Behan said if Sino Bright opens its campus in Powell River, the expected 400 students from China may not necessarily be included in the international education program. The Sino Bright program of study will be different and students will take elective classes and specialized lab classes at Brooks and stay in dorms, she added.
"It would be like another school," she said, “within our school district.”