In 2011, School District No. 91 Business Company received a $1,500,000 loan from Northern Development through the Economic Diversification Infrastructure program towards this $1,800,000 project. This has been a funding partnership of Northern Development Initiative Trust, Northern Development, Community Futures Development Corporation - 16-37, Community Futures Nadina, Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest, Community Futures Stuart-Nechako, and Haida Gwaii Community Futures
2012-School District 91 has established a new business company that will offer educational programming overseas in an effort to increase enrolment and stimulate economic development throughout northern BC. The new business company will operate the first of its British Columbia certified secondary schools in Xianghe and Beijing, China, under the name Canadian Pathways.
Already, these schools in Xianghe and Beijing have been twinned with Lakes District Secondary School in Burns Lake, and Nechako Valley Secondary School in Vanderhoof to develop cooperative exchange programs. These relationships are essential to the implementation of programs that will allow Chinese students to complete their secondary education in northern BC while others will be able to do so at their home school in China. One of the goals is to have students achieve a considerable understanding of Canada, its culture and how our two nations, China and Canada, can work together.
School District 91’s new business company is required to operate as an independently financed and administered enterprise from the Board of Education which by legislation must be its sole shareholder. Under this program, Chinese students pay tuition fees to attend BC certified offshore schools in order to graduate with a BC dogwood diploma and thereby qualify for admission to North American universities. Revenues from the tuition fees will flow directly to the School District 91 Business Company to cover all operating costs and a per student royalty. Once all start up loans have been repaid, profits will be returned to School District 91 Nechako Lakes, allowing the secondary schools to improve, enhance, and expand educational programs and facilities for domestic students in northern BC.
The initiative has received letters of support from the Province of BC, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, local governments in Burns Lake, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, and Fraser Lake, and from ten other school districts including Prince George, Peace River South, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Quesnel, Prince Rupert, Peace River North, Haida Gwaii, Kamloops/Thompson, Powell River and Bulkley Valley. In addition to this support, the School District 91 Business Company has received seed funding from Northern Development Initiative Trust and Community Futures Development Corporation.
A 2012 summer camp in Xianghe, to be housed at the Grand Epoche Cultural City has been organized for students and educators from the district. An August, BC summer camp visit by twenty Chinese students and ten teachers from the Beijing sister school has been approved by the Chaoyang Beijing Education Bureau. These camps allow students and teachers to further their education, while exposing them to the diverse cultures of northern BC and China. Canadian Pathways Schools will offer English Language Learning programs to build fluency and facilitate instruction in English of the BC certified curriculum to its students.
The first of the Canadian Pathways Schools is presently going through minor renovations and outfitting for Canadian style classrooms in advance of inspection by BC Ministry Officials for its grand opening in September, 2012 at Xianghe No. 1 (public) High School. A second school within the program is planned to open in September 2013 within the sister school in Beijing, and a third school is being built by Chinese developers who have asked the School District No 91 Business Company to open it in September 2014.
"Through the development of the School District 91 Business Company, Vanderhoof is able to create new opportunities for our community. Not only will it help put money back into our school district, it will also prove to be a great example of the quality of education that is available to our children."Gerry Thiessen, Mayor, District of Vanderhoof
"International education is huge, we see the numbers, it benefits the British Columbian economy. Through education we can build relationships that enrich many aspects of our communities. "Ray LeMoigne, President, School District 91 Business Company
With the opening of the first school in Xianghe in September of 2012, growth in employment opportunities also begins. At peak enrollment and with all three schools in full operation it is anticipated that over 116 full time domestic and international positions consisting of teachers, guidance counselors, support staff and administrative personnel will be created, giving Canadian employees the opportunity to bridge cultures and build new relationships that will positively impact the Canadian economy. As well, the twinning of Canadian and Chinese schools will provide the opportunity for up to 500 students to take part in cultural exchanges and international studies on an annual basis. These initiatives will provide a source of additional income to School District 91 Nechako Lakes and to other rural, partner school districts.
Once completed, all profits from Canadian Pathways will be channeled back into School District 91 and create the potential for other business projects. Revenues are projected to reach $44.7 million by the end of five years and with School District 91 receiving the profits it will be possible to add an additional five to ten percent to their current budget. The additional funds will be used to provide increased educational options and to strengthen learning opportunities that current declining enrollments and corresponding funding allocations cannot sustainably support.
The benefits of the Canadian Pathways business extend farther than just the school district. The connections that are built with China are opening opportunities in a variety of areas, especially in the forest industry. Local wood products will be used in the construction of the third school built by a Chinese development company scheduled to open in 2014. BC producers have been invited to become involved in future Chinese projects. Wood demand is on the rise in China, as manufacturers are looking for new suppliers for furniture production. Additionally, China is interested in using wood in building construction projects. As such, Canadian Pathways has already been fortunate to act as a connector between Chinese demand and Canadian supply. By hosting Chinese students in northern BC communities, businesses will prosper from increased local demand for goods and services and the tourism sector will benefit from increased visits to our region by parents and family members along with educational delegations.