BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — There are tentative plans for Barker School District officials to visit Liuzhou in May, months after education leaders from the Chinese school district visited Niagara County last fall.
There are still some details to figure out, but when they are, Barker Superintendent Roger Klatt and one teacher or adviser would meet Board Member Randall Atwater in Shanghai. The three will then travel to Liuzhou, about 1,000 miles to the south of Shanghai. Atwater will already be in Shanghai on business.
At a meeting last week, Barker Board of Education members approved the cost of getting Klatt and at teacher to Shanghai. Everything else, such as domestic travel and accommodations, would be covered by the Liuzhou Education Bureau.
“They’d be expecting us to make a reciprocal visit,” Klatt said. “But we told them we can’t afford it. They said if we can get to Shanghai, they could cover the rest. It’s that important for you to go, they said.”
Barker is still awaiting confirmation and the necessary travel documents. The Liuzhou district’s help has made the trip cost-effective.
“They’ve been very generous,” Klatt said.
After Liuzhou leaders visited Barker last October, Klatt said the group was impressed by the staff, course offerings and the positive learning environment of the district. A formal partnership was established to allow for future visitation and exchanges of students and teachers between the two schools.
The visit will give Barker a firsthand account of the Liuzhou school district as well as travel and living arrangements that students and staff could experience in future visits.
Consequently, Barker parents will be more comfortable allowing their son or daughter to visit China knowing that the district will have gained personal insight about the school and accommodations, Klatt said.
It’s expected the first opportunity for interested Barker students and staff to visit Liuzhou will be during spring break in April 2014.
The China trip could also lead to a revenue opportunity for Barker. Klatt said short term visits by Liuzhou students to Barker in the fall may evolve into tuition-based enrollment for either a semester or full school year.
“We have learned that the Liuzhou parents expressed a willingness to pay tuition, as well as a small stipend to host families for the added cost associated with another child in the home,” he said.
Tuition-based enrollment of just one Liuzhou student for one semester would likely exceed the cost of travel and accommodations to complete the introductory visit to and from Liuzhou, China — a clear return on the initial investment, Klatt said.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.