FARMINGTON — RSU 9 directors approved the concept of establishing an international student program Tuesday.

The weighted vote was 453-357. In the district’s case, state law requires each director’s vote to be weighted based on his or her town’s population divided by the number of directors.

The program will be put on a priority needs list when budget talks begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at the Forum at Mt. Blue High School on Seamon Road in Farmington.

At the March 11 meeting, RSU 9 World Language teacher Lisa Dalrymple proposed the district start its own international student program to pay for foreign language classes in the lower grades again.

Dalrymple, a Mt. Blue High School teacher, said the program would cost $20,355 the first year and $15,200 the second year. By the third year, if three foreign students were brought to Mt. Blue High School, there would be a net profit of $38,400, according to her proposal. It is expected the program would grow from there.

A few years ago, the elementary level world language program was eliminated due to budget constraints. One of the long-term goals for the district is to have a language program in all grades, from pre-kindergarten through 12, and she developed the idea of an international student program to fund world languages at the lower grade levels.

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The idea would be to attract Asian students, starting with Chinese ones, to participate in the program. Students would be charged tuition and housing, among other costs.

Some directors questioned putting the $20,355 in the budget this year when there are so many needs and programs to support. They also questioned a stipend and additional preparation period for Dalrymple to work on the program in addition to her teaching salary. Some directors also favored starting the program and the creative way of financing it.

Board Chairman Mark Prentiss of Industry said the financial aspects related to Dalrymple would go through the board’s Contract Resolution Committee.

Director Betsey Hyde of Temple said she appreciated Dalrymple being creative to get a program back that her son had in elementary school and her daughter did not. Her son started Spanish in the second grade and is going to Barcelona, Spain, in less than two weeks. She said the district’s world language program was an attraction for the family to move into the district.

Director Angie LeClair of Wilton said she loved the idea of the program but was concerned about the budget and Dalrymple asking for the preparation period and a stipend in addition to her salary.

Director James Black of Wilton said he supported the program but was concerned about the startup cost and budget.

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“I think there is money to be made but the way we get there is vague,” he said.

Director Bill Reid of New Sharon said he liked the idea of bringing foreign students to the district.

“I do not have a problem with the cost,” he said. “I would like to see it go forward.”

Dalrymple said the University of Maine at Farmington representatives she spoke to were in favor of working with her on the program.

Chairman Mark Prentiss of Industry said the board had contingency funds that they could use when they see a program they like.

“At this time, we have some seed money,” he said.

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Director Richard Hargreaves of New Vineyard said that given the discussions the board’s ad hoc committee has had on the budget, he wished they had more time to consider it.

Dalrymple said the numbers she put in her proposal were fair.

Director Jennifer Zweig Hebert of Starks said the board would be investing in something with the expectation of getting the money back and more, if all goes as planned.

“We have a university and a brand new school. We should go for it,” Reid said.

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