BRISTOL – Bristol Central High School could be getting a sister school in Genoa, Italy.
“Bristol Center is seeking support in starting a sibling exchange program with a high school in Genoa, Italy,” Italian teacher Gina Gallo said at the most recent Bristol Public Schools Board of Education meeting. “This proposal is a two-phased initiative starting with virtual exchanges this academic year. We hope to see the virtual part in March.”
Next school year, the program aims to provide in-person exchanges, he continued. The sister school partnership is a long-term agreement to support the improvement of the curriculum and pedagogy of both schools, and consists of mutual student exchanges that promote personal development and life skills courses.
Members of the Bristol Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously in favor.
“In this proposal, we would like to hold a sister school in the fall of 2023 and travel in the winter and spring of 2024. This period was chosen to minimize the loss of training time in the United States, but maximize the time abroad,” Gallo said. . “The board often asks why we don’t travel on vacation. My answer is we don’t go on vacation because we go to school and have to travel when it’s school time.”
The proposal asked for virtual exchange options to begin a year before in-person exchanges to give families time to prepare for trips abroad.
“The virtual exchange will give our students the foundation to get to know not just one partner, but many classmates and their partners,” Gallo said. “And next year, I will be participating in an exchange program with them in person. It’s an opportunity for everyone, even those who can’t travel.”
Gallo said he is looking into a program called Guardian Travel, which supports fundraising initiatives from overseas travel experiences.
Board members asked about the cost of such a program. Gallo said the cost would be covered by the student’s family and fundraisers could be raised, but the scholarship program is planned to be awarded through the respective faculty associations.
The Italian teacher said that in previous exchange programs, the cost of housing, flights and travel could be between $1,500 and $1,800. Prices have gone up since Covid, he said. He estimated the price to be between $2,300 and $2,400, which would be the maximum, but to keep costs down, he set a goal to keep costs below $2,000 through the annual planning process.
“That’s all they need. I tell the parents they can go for five euros and they won’t need anything. The rest of the money, if they decide to spend it, they’ll bring the money to spend,” Gallo said.
The opportunity to travel during the summer was a separate experience from the exchange offer as a study abroad program, the faculty said in response to another question from the board’s commission.
Gallo said a teacher visiting the Bristol center from Italy discovered the school on a consulate website that listed it as a gold standard school offering study abroad programs. A teacher at the Bristol Center noted that this is because such programs have been offered through the Bristol Center for more than a decade.
“He found us and contacted Bristol’s central world language department and said, ‘Someone in your department runs these programs, can you put me in touch?’ I found your name. I found your district and I want to be a part of it,” Gallo continued to the board. “Hats off to you guys for finding us.”