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Universities preparing for return of international students

With three weeks to go before the start of the school year, post-secondary institutions on the Island are preparing for the return of international students who will need to quarantine.
a10 05142020 uvic trees.jpg
The tree-filled University of Victoria campus.

With three weeks to go before the start of the school year, post-secondary institutions on the Island are preparing for the return of international students who will need to quarantine.

Colleges and universities plan to offer mostly online courses, but there will be some face-to-face classes, and each school is dealing with the challenges differently. Vancouver Island University, for example, will require students returning from abroad to quarantine in designated residence rooms, while the University of Victoria expects students to quarantine off campus.

More than 3,000 international students are registered for the upcoming school year at UVic, a number similar to last year. But that does not indicate how many will be travelling to Greater Victoria from abroad to study, as some may study online and others might have stayed in Canada through the pandemic.

Forty-three international students have reserved spaces in on-campus residences, and the university is in the process of connecting with them to determine where they’re coming from and whether they’ll need to quarantine, said Rose-Marie Roxburgh, associate director of business operations in Residence Services.

No one will be allowed to quarantine in residence, she said.

Roxburgh said the university has been in touch with students to make sure they are aware of the quarantine period, which needs to be completed prior to move-in day on Sept. 6.

“And I’ve been working with International Student Services, to arrange for options like hotels,” she said.

The number of available residence beds has been reduced from around 2,300 to 800 this year, and no one will be sharing a room to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Residence spaces are available to all students, regardless of whether they’ll be learning in classrooms or online.

At Vancouver Island University, any student coming from abroad to study in a program that involves in-person learning is required to quarantine in residence, whether or not they intend to live on campus.

“Our No. 1 priority is supporting our students and keeping our community safe and we have a robust plan in place that follows the most current guidelines,” said Ian Johnsrude, VIU’s manager of student housing.

The university has dedicated 20 residence spaces for students in quarantine, and seven beds have been booked, Johnsrude said.

Individuals will receive three meals a day delivered to their door and have their own bathroom.

The quarantine program costs between $50 to $60 a night.

Johnsrude said many international students are in online programs that do not require them to travel to Canada, and some were already in the country before the pandemic began and stayed.

That’s the case for the vast majority of international students at Camosun College, said Geoff Wilmshurst, who is responsible for non-government funded programs at the college, like international education.

Of about 1,300 international students enrolled in the fall, only around 50 people — who already had study permits — are coming from abroad, and there will be virtually no international first-year students on campus, because they weren’t able to get study permits, Wilmshurst said.

Camosun staff have identified hotels for students who need to quarantine, and will provide a hamper filled with food and essential toiletries to help them get through the two-week period. Staff will be checking in with students periodically during the quarantine period, Wilmshurst said.

“We’re feeling that we put everything in place that we know we’re required to put in place to have a safe start to the school year,” he said.

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