MCS on verge of allowing academic visa students

OLMSTEDVILLE — Though they've seen plenty of international students through sports and academic program sharing with Newcomb Central, the Minerva Central School is hoping to build international attendance in its own home rooms.

“Similar to most Adirondack communities, we have a pretty homogenous population,” said Minerva School Superintendent Tim Farrell.

Bringing in new students from faraway cultures would be a boon to the educational experience of local students. Instead of interacting only with other young people very much like themselves, students get a chance to understand the cultures of faraway places, Farrell said.

Minerva has hosted international students for the last five years, said Farrell, but they visited on the J-1 cultural visa. The J-1 visa limits a student's ability to earn academic credit. The F-1 visa is an educational visa that allows academic progression or graduation from a U.S. school. Academic visa students must pay the full tuition at public schools.

The school board began talking about seeking approval for students with F-1 visas at the end of the last school year and applied for federal approval this fall. They've just completed their site visit, said Farrell. That should be the last major hurdle to clear before they can get final approval.

Indian Lake Central's school board recently approved the cost of applying for F-1 approval, encouraged in large part by Newcomb Superintendent Skip Hults. At the board meeting where the costs were approved, Hults said the social lives and worldview of his students were greatly expanded by interacting with international visitors. School resources like teachers and facilities are again busy, and enrollment climbed by 75 percent in four years.

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