MILLINOCKET, Maine — Stearns High School has five Chinese students enrolled this year, with another possibly on the way, Millinocket School Committee Chairman Kevin Gregory said Tuesday.
As Superintendent Kenneth Smith visits China over the next several weeks to secure connections that would lead to more student enrollments, the five students have moved in with host families. The program had three students last year, Gregory said.
Gregory expressed some satisfaction with the increase.
“I think we must have done something right to have more coming this year,” he said.
Smith is helping establish a Millinocket sister school in China as part of the dual diploma program established in cooperation with U.S. State Department and Chinese national and school officials. He will return to Maine by the end of the month. Assistant Superintendent and Stearns Principal Kelly Weise did not return a message left Tuesday.
Millinocket school leaders made international news, and drew some international criticism, about 1½ years ago when they announced they wanted to enroll 60 Chinese students in a program starting in September 2011 that would offer them a taste of American life at a typical rural American high school.
Town residents generally approved of the plan. Recruiting difficulties accounted for the school attracting only three Chinese students last year, school officials have said. School officials hope that the Chinese students and the tuition they pay, about $24,000 each, will offset declining student enrollments and school funding while providing the students and community with a glimpse of another culture.
Hopes of recruiting more Chinese students were bolstered when 26 Chinese students and three teachers participated in a new, weeklong intensive English and environmental sciences summer program at Stearns last month. School officials are working to get some of those students enrolled at Stearns.
As many as 100 Chinese students could eventually attend Stearns, Smith has said.