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Decline in international students due to COVID-19 won’t mean teacher layoffs, B.C. premier says

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WATCH: B.C. education system to lose millions due to loss of international students

B.C. Premier John Horgan is promising school districts they will not need to cut any teaching positions to make up for a loss in revenues from sagging international student enrolment.

“We are not contemplating layoffs; quite the contrary,” Horgan said.

“Education is the key to success for individuals and for communities. It is the great equalizer in our society. We have been committed from the beginning to expand access to education for all BCers, and we will continue to do that.”

READ MORE: Here’s how B.C. plans to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic

School districts are preparing to see huge drop offs in international students coming to K to 12 classrooms due to global travel restrictions.

It’s unclear when travel restrictions put in place to deal with the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted.

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In 2018/2019, international student enrolment generated $260 million in student tuition gross revenues for school districts in B.C. With costs factored in, this meant $111 million into the coffers for districts.

The Surrey School District has capped international student enrolment at around 1,050 students due to the district’s growth in students. The district is estimating a decline of 300 international students, which would be a potential loss of $3.9 million in revenue.

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The board is estimating that this could affect 10 teacher position but losses will be offset by the overall growth.

The Greater Victoria School District 61 said 33 full-time teaching positions are on the chopping block and $6.3 million will be lost due to the enrolment drop.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Retaining international students in B.C. and top-up measures for essential workers

International students pay around $15,700 per student to attend B.C. public schools.

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“We understand there are some uncertainties for school districts going into next year,” a statement from the Ministry of Education reads.

“We are working with districts to understand the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on budgets for this school year and next. There may be fewer international students coming to B.C. as a result of the pandemic but it’s too early to know the whole picture as enrolments won’t be known until the fall.”

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Return to school for B.C. students on voluntary basis

Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming are expected to announce more details about a return to K to 12 school in the next few weeks.

The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Winona Waldron says she was shocked when she heard the Greater Victoria School District was contemplating cutting teacher positions.

“When I was at the board meeting and they announced the short fall I was quite shocked,” Waldron said.

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“I wish the district or ministry would look at alternatives other than getting rid of teachers.”