International students at the secondary and collegial level will still get to experience Chatham-Kent this academic year.
On Tuesday, the Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB) officially approved plans that would allow for international students to participate in the exchange program while remaining safe.
Ontario boards were only informed last week that they must have plans in place to accept students coming to the province from outside of Canada. The plans must include specific details about how boards will meet the provincial and federal criteria to demonstrate readiness.
“For the first time in recent memory, there is an expectation that trustees also provide support and approve that we are continuing with international students in the program that we have in place, in the case that we have students who received study visas for this year,” John Howitt, director of education, LKDSB, said.
Normally the LKDSB would see more than 100 students in the exchange program, but are expecting half the amount this academic year, according to Howitt.
Under federal regulations, foreign nationals who had a study permit application approved on or before March 18 are still permitted to come abroad for their education. All international students must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Howitt said LKDSB and their contractors Canada Homestay Network, found international students a residence close to Pearson airport to quarantine at before they were brought to Chatham-Kent to join their host families. Homestay families have been provided additional financial support to buy necessary supplies and food for the quarantining students.
As part of the plan, students will also receive a pre-departure orientation, in their native language and with their parents, informing them of safety and health protocols. LKDSB also required every student to come with a Canadian telephone number that could be provided to Canadian Border Service Agency.
St. Clair College is also expecting an “extremely small” amount of international students coming to the Windsor and Chatham campuses this semester.
“When the COVID hit our region, students were not able to travel and that actually resulted in a reduced number of students enrolling because of study permit implications,” said Michael Silvaggi, associate vice president of Student Services and College Registrar, for St. Clair College.
Silvaggi said the best-case scenario for the fall semester will be 300 students. In May, he is expecting international enrolment to uptick to 1,500 students.
Prior to leaving their native country, international students had to provide paperwork identifying where exactly they were staying. Silvaggi said some students listed hotels, or other private residences that they have rented. Those that could not provide the paperwork were turned away.
Silvaggi said in the fall, most students will be able to study from their own countries in programs that aredelivered online in an asynchronous format.
Asynchronous learning is learning that does not occur in the same place or time for all the students in a class. International students who are remaining in their native country will only be able to enrol in programs that offer this format.
St Clair College will have kids on campus for workshops and labs while the majority of lectures will be held online.
Staggered time slots, heightened cleaning protocols and additional personal protective equipment are all in place for the in-person learning at the college.
“We have some strict guidelines. We even have COVID ambassadors, as we're calling them, walking the halls to ensure that any individuals that are on campus are not congregating, students are wearing their masks and so forth,” said Silvaggi.
He added there has been no increase to tuition fees, which have been provincially mandated by the provincial government to remain frozen. The college is also expecting to see a “flat no growth” year in terms of enrolment, he added.
The CKHA field hospital will remain on site at St. Clair College until the end of September.
Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice