CHOCTAW COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- Choctaw County is learning first hand- again- just how complicated it can be for a school district to host foreign exchange students.
The district was approached by an area family who was interested in hosting a Brazilian exchange student and having them attend Choctaw County High School- and the district had to turn them away.
“The board was requested about an exchange student coming to our district, and our district has a policy in which we do not accept foreign exchange student’s at this time. And that stems from years ago,” says Superintendent Glen Beard.
An incident that terminated the county’s exchange program all together…
“The local coordinator is currently in jail from that program. She had been obviously stealing money from the students,” says Beard.
Since then, Superintendent Glen Beard and the school board have been very cautious about reopening the program.
“The district has to make sure that the company representing them or sponsoring the exchange student and program is a reputable company, professional, has done tremendous amounts of background checks, and then they have a local coordinator, that also have to be in place, the backgrounds there, and then the host families, all of that have to be in place,” says Beard.
There are numerous other requirements.
Not to mention, knowing where the student stands academically and linguistically.
“What does this student need, what language does this student speak primarily? Would they come as a secondary English learner or will they fully be English speaking or do they speak Portuguese? In small districts like ours, we have a hard time finding a foreign language teacher, much less two or three,” says Beard.
Even after several School Board meetings with the host family, the board stands by its original decision to not allow the student to attend.
Beard says the district would love to work towards reopening an exchange program, at some point, but they need more time.
“The issue with this was strictly timing, the company, or local coordinator, requested the district to take an exchange student at the August meeting, well at that time, school had already begun. It could be a wonderful thing for both the exchange students and our local students because tremendous learning opportunities are there which our kids can learn from a different culture,” says Beard.
The school district plans to revisit the topic next year.