Tighter Rules On Student Exchanges

County To Give Priority To Host Families With Siblings

November 03, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Bruno Suarez, a Spanish exchange student, considers himself lucky.

The transition from Spanish to American secondary school has been smooth for the 16-year-old, even though he does not have a host brother or sister attending Francis Scott Key High School with him.

A recent change in Carroll's administrative regulations, however,may make it more difficult for students like Bruno, who lives with the Cogswells on a farm outside Taneytown, to attend county schools next year.

The regulation gives priority to applicants that will "reside with host families that have children attending the host school." The school board was made aware of the change last month when it approved a minor policy revision.

"I don't know how it would be witha host brother or sister," Bruno said. "I don't think it would be less difficult. It would be fun to have one, but I don't really care."

Edwin L. Davis, director of pupil services and special programs, said the regulation was revised to give school officials better control over the influx of exchange students and to ensure their success inthe system.

"We want these students to succeed," he said. "We feel more comfortable with them making it through the year with a host brother or sister."

Foreign exchange program representatives, however, said they fear the revision will eliminate students like Bruno, whom they were not able to match with host families with children.

"This puts more restrictions on finding families," said Mimi Ashcraftof the American Field Service, one of several exchange programs serving Carroll. "Frankly, I don't think they need to be in families withhost children. Most students that come here are well-adjusted and outgoing."

She estimated that about 16 of the district's 19 exchangestudents this year are living with families without children in the schools.

Davis, though, said school officials are not trying to limit the number of foreign exchange students or prevent those who do not have host brothers or sisters from enrolling in Carroll high schools.

"If we look at our experience, we have been successful either way," he said. "And we've have had unsuccessful experiences either way. But we sense greater success when there is a host brother or sister in the family."

Like Ashcraft, Wayne Cogswell, an American Institute for Foreign Study representative, has concerns about how the policy will be implemented and how the application process will affect matches.

"I see some very serious problems in implementation," he said. "It would be easier to say you can havefamilies without host brothers or sisters, or you can't. How do you implement this policy of having priority?"

North Carroll High School Principal Gregory Eckles said the problems exchange students without host brothers or sisters face in adapting to American schools outweigh any advantages.

"When there is no host brother or sister, there is a tremendous lack ofunderstanding about the high school system," he said.

"It's real hard on the exchange student. There's a lot of cultural differences."

Peter Finck, Howard County's supervisor of pupil services, said his county places foreign exchange students in its schools without anyregard to host families having children in the system.

"One of the reasons we haven't made any distinctions is that our Howard youngsters get placed in exchange programs, too," he said.

"It's a give and take thing. It benefits our students, as well as theirs."

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