Source: Sherman Publications

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Crossroads out: Other housing found for Chinese students

by Andrew Moser

June 22, 2011

Crossroads for Youth will no longer be the official home of the Oxford International Residency Academy (OIRA).

Superintendent of Oxford Community Schools Dr. William Skilling is currently in negotiations with Queen of the Family Retreat Center to house the female Chinese students who are coming this fall as part of the OIRA.

The residency, which was supposed to open this fall at Crossroads for Youth, was moved after Skilling received numerous concerns from Chinese parents about sending their child to the residence after researching the facility.

Skilling began receiving these concerns in November 2010 from Mr. Yao of Beijing Channel Consulting.

"Many of the parents who went to the website last year looking at where the residency was located became concerned there were adjudicated youth being housed on the same campus," Skilling said.

However, Skilling tried to ease their concerns, saying the youth and the Chinese students would not cross paths.

"They are so far apart," Skilling said. "Being halfway around the world, they (Chinese parents) can't tell, even though I talked to them.

"Until you come and see it for yourself, you don't realize that," he added.

However, the Chinese parents wouldn't budge.

"I wanted to try and work it out, but by the time the first of the year came around, he (Yao) said 'Bill it isn't going to work' because he had been talking with new families for this year and he said they will not send their kids based on what they read about Crossroads for Youth," Skilling said.

"So I can't market it with the families, it isn't acceptable and we have to find alternate locations," Skilling added.

Skilling said he wanted to make it clear the OIRA leaving had nothing to do with Crossroads or the organization itself.

"It would be perfectly safe and a wonderful place to have a residency academy," Skilling said. "I'm familiar with the campus, I know the separation between where we are housing the residency academy versus where the adjudicated youth are housed...there would be absolutely no problems in my mind having it at Crossroads; but it is a perception issue from parents in China who have never been there to see if for themselves."

Instead of being housed at Crossroads, male students will be put with host families, while female students will be housed at Queen of the Family Retreat Center, located at 771 W. Drahner Rd. in Oxford.

Donna Babcock, the Business Manager for Queen of the Family Retreat Center, was enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting the Chinese females.

"I love the idea...I think that everything that is going on in Oxford now is very progressive and very helpful, so I am thrilled they would even think to consider us and it seems like a nice fit because of our experience," Babcock said.

Currently, Queen of the Family hosts international students who attend the Everest Academy in Clarkston.

Babcock said the Chinese students would receive the same treatment as their international students.

"We will be doing everything the same," Babcock said. They will be providing housekeeping, laundry services, food and full access to all the grounds and facilities.

"They have their own set of chaperones, but we also have adults in the buildings at all times," Babcock said.

Even though the two sides are still negotiating, Skilling said the contract would be very similar to the one the OIRA had with Crossroads, with the only difference being the district would pick up the students medical insurance.

He added the tradeoff would be students would live at Queen of the Family for 12 months, instead of only nine at Crossroads.

The total cost would still be $26,000, with $11,500 covering tuition and $14,500 going towards room and board.

According to Skilling, the amount for the male students would vary because they would be living with host families. The host families would be given reimburshments for the additional costs they would incur hosting a Chinese student.

"Say a family has a weekly food bill of $100 a week and hosting a student raises it to $125 a week, well we can reimburse them the additional cost," Skilling said.