The Regional School Unit 20 board of directors gave a green light to planners of a China visit for interested students and community members in 2015.

Searsport District High School and Middle School Principal Kent Hoffman and former SDHS Dean of Students Ruth Fitzpatrick went before the board Sept. 9 to ask for permission to begin recruiting for the 11-day China trip.

Hoffman noted the trip will not require any funding from the school.

In July, more than 30 Chinese students from Haining No. 1 Middle School visited Searsport and stayed with local families. During their visit, the students visited sites around the Midcoast, including the Owls Head Transportation Museum, the Penobscot Marine Museum, Fort Knox and the University of Maine in Orono.

Fitzpatrick, speaking to board members, said hosting the Chinese students over the summer was “hugely successful” and said the connections the Chinese students made with the local host families and students were phenomenal.

Hoffman said the China trip is led by EF Educational Tours — a company with 50 years of experience of offering global trips — and it is “not just about going and seeing the Great Wall of China.”

He said there are educational objectives tied into the trip that include promoting an understanding of cultural respect, sharpening communication skills, teaching students how to navigate new experiences, and learning how to adapt to change with confidence, among other goals.

Over the course of the 11-day visit to China, participants will tour Beijing, stay with host families in Zhejiang province and tour Shanghai, among other activities, according to an itinerary for the trip.

As a supplement to the trip, students can also participate in EF's weShare online research and communication platform that links students throughout New England with students in China.

"By combining project-based learning with immersive on-tour experiences, students develop critical 21st-century skills while increasing global awareness," EF Global Education Consultant for Maine stated in documents provided to board members. "And, our flexible learning model allows students to be as involved as they like, providing opportunities to earn high school and college credit for their finalized research project."

Fitzpatrick said the trip will cost $4,037, and it was noted that figure does not cover expenses for obtaining a visa, passport or incidentals such as souvenirs. She said with board approval of the trip, recruitment meetings will be held later this month with fundraising efforts to begin in October and run through April.

At the conclusion of the presentation, board members posed a number of questions regarding how many students would be allowed to go on the trip and about fundraising.

In terms of the number of students allowed on the trip, Fitzpatrick said EF did not give a maximum number that would be allowed to go. In regard to the fundraising, Fitzpatrick explained there may be opportunities to pursue sponsorships through local businesses.

Fitzpatrick also pointed out that the trip to China is open to members of the community and is not only for students.

Several questions were also raised about what would happen if not enough people sign up for the trip or if not enough money is able to be raised. Fitzpatrick said any money raised could be used in the future to fund the trip at a later date. She also explained that other schools in the state are sending students on the trip in April so, even if only a few students or community members sign up, they will still be able to go.

Director Deb Riley praised Fitzpatrick for the work that has been done to foster a relationship with Chinese students prior to the board approving the trip.

A meeting regarding the trip is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at SDHS.