The Northland Pines School Board terminated the district’s efforts to bring up to 30 Chinese students to Eagle River for the 2019-’20 school year and ended the  partnership with the Wisconsin International Student Program (WISP) at the conclusion of the 2018-’19 school year at its meeting last week.

The board also terminated certification under the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System that is part of Homeland Security to obtain U.S. visas for the students.

Presently, there are five Chinese students who will end their relationship with the school district at the end of the current school year. The action by the school board means there will be no Chinese students through  WISP hosted in the district next school year.

“This action does not affect our present five Chinese students and we feel it was a good experience for them and for us,” said District Administrator Scott Foster. “We adjusted their schedule for the second semester, trying to get more interaction with other programs such as sports teams. I have to give credit to our teachers for their dedication to our students.”

Former District Administrator Mike Richie started the partnership program with the Chinese students through WISP. However, an investigation into the relationship of Richie with WISP concluded that Richie accepted a position to promote WISP and received a $1,500 per month contracted payment for three months. WISP and Richie had plans to bring up to 30 Chinese students to Northland Pines High School and build a $1.5 million dormitory on school property.

Richie eventually resigned in November 2018, signing a severance agreement outlining the terms of separation that included a waiver and release of claims against the district. Richie had announced earlier in the year that he would be retiring at the end of the 2018-’19 school year. Foster was named the new district administrator following Richie’s resignation.

Foster said last week that other programs that Richie and the district started under his tenure will remain, including the SOAR middle and high schools and Montessori Learning Center.

Meanwhile, Foster said the district would “not shut out” all foreign students and would be open to considering foreign students sponsored by the Rotary Club, for example.

Richie, contacted for a reaction about Pines terminating the program with WISP, declined to comment. He previously said the five Chinese students resulted in $62,500 in revenue for the district this year.

Asked about the 2 acres the district sold for building a proposed dormitory to house 30 Chinese students, Foster said there had been no discussion on the topic. Officials said there was a buy-back provision in the sale agreement.