A program to enroll international students at Mt. Blue High School is moving forward after the school district’s plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security nine months earlier than expected.

The program, proposed by world language teacher Lisa Dalrymple, was initiated as a way to fill a budget gap in the Farmington-based school district with tuition dollars from international students, as well as to increase cultural diversity at the high school.

“It’s a big deal,” said Dalrymple last week after announcing the approval to the school board. “That’s the first big step.”

If Mt. Blue were to attract three tuition paying students in its first year of operation, Dalrymple said the program would more than pay for itself and would provide needed revenue to bring back world language instruction at the elementary level.

She said she worked all summer to get federal approval for the school to have “non-immigrant alien students,” as classified by the federal government.

This school year, she said the program’s infrastructure will be put in place, including establishing an internal application system and creating a website.

Dalrymple said she will need to market the program to international students with a focus on recruiting Chinese students.

While Dalrymple said the school board originally approved the program with a goal of enrolling students in the 2016-2017 school year, she is now aiming to launch the international program sooner because of their quick Homeland Security approval.

“I’m hoping that we could move it up by a whole year. That’s my new goal,” she said.

The 10-town school district already has a history of enrolling international students, but all have attended through a variety of programs not run by the school.

School officials previously anticipated spending $35,000 over the course of two years to launch the program and then, if successful, using the tuition of three students to pay it back.

Students would pay about $15,000 tuition for the first year of attendance, $5,500 for room and board and $5,000 as an administrative fee for the costs of running the program, bringing the total cost of one year in the program to about $25,500.

Dalrymple said previously that if the school took in three students the first year, the district would make about $38,400 after expenses.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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