The international high school created by the University of Southern Maine could open in Gorham as early as next January, pending Homeland Security approval, and local students may be able to apply for enrollment.

“The intent of the program is for international students,” Robert Stein, the university’s public affairs executive director, said. “However, we recognize there may be some intertest from local students, so we are open to considering that as we move forward.”

The international high school, which would be for juniors and seniors, could buoy the university’s enrollment if graduates transition into the college. On Jan. 25, the University of Maine Board of Trustees approved the University of Southern Maine’s plan for the high school, tentatively called the International Early College. Students would be housed in Anderson Hall on the Gorham campus with an initial goal set for 50 students.

Heather Perry, Gorham school superintendent, said that she and Glenn Cummings, university president, have discussed since last summer his plans for a high school. Perry visualizes potential for cooperation.

“Opportunities for collaboration could likely include things like USM high school students coming to visit our schools to share with students their experiences of growing up in a different culture,” Perry said.

Perry said other possibilities could include mentoring with younger elementary students in learning about other cultures and languages or participation in Gorham High School clubs or organizations.

Perry said Cummings hopes to spur collaborations with other area schools, though Westbrook Superintendent Marc Gousse said Monday that university officials have not reached out to him yet about its high school plans.

Westbrook Regional Vocational Center is located on the Westbrook High School campus. Vocational students are from Gorham, Bonny Eagle, Windham/Raymond, Scarborough and Westbrook..

Gousse said the possibility exists for the university’s high school students to take art classes at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, based on space availabilty and with a fee.

“We would be open to that,” Gousse said.

As for athletics at the international high school, Stein said there would not be sports competition with other schools, but he thought perhaps an intramural sports program might be a possibility.

“Not everything has been figured out,” Stein said.

Even though it will located in Gorham, the International Early College students would not be eligible to participate in sports at Gorham High School.

“The international school would be a USM venture,” Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said last week. “The students would have to be full-time students at Gorham High School in order to participate in Gorham High School athletics.”

The International Early College will be co-ed. Stein said some university staffers have informally recruited students in the past months in China and Southeast Asia. “We expect in the long term to be recruiting students from all over the world,” Stein said.

He said tuition plus room and board would tentatively cost $36,500.

To begin the high school, the university is now seeking approval from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security system that maintains information on students and schools. Stein said approval could take up to 10 months.

“Consequently, we are going to be conservative and are now looking at a formal launch of the program for the fall of 2017,” Stein said.

But, if approval is gained more quickly, the university could open by next January, he sadded.

Stein said the concept of earning college credits at the university while in high school is “already available to local students, although there is not a residential component at the moment for Maine high-schoolers.”

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