Nova Scotia public schools won't allow international students this winter

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International students won't be allowed back in Nova Scotia public schools next semester.

Chris Boulter, chair of the board of representatives for the Nova Scotia International Student Program, said they were told late last week about the decision from the provincial education department.

Boulter said the move comes out of "an abundance of caution" given the current state of COVID-19 world-wide.

"Safety is at the forefront," Boulter said Monday.

"We certainly understand the decision. We support the decision. And we know it was a complex one and certainly not an easy one."

Move affects about 300 students

These students usually have the opportunity to enrol in over 80 junior and senior high schools across the province. They were also denied entry this fall. Their winter semester would have begun in February 2021.

Boulter said the decision likely impacts about 300 students who were hoping to come next year.

There are still a couple dozen students who stayed in Nova Scotia since this June when the last school year ended, Boulter said.

They account for 10 per cent of the program's capacity and have been able to keep attending school in the province.

Boulter said although they're not physically in Nova Scotia, international students are being supported online and given access to Nova Scotia's curriculum.

Hope for a September return

The move comes after many Nova Scotia universities and colleges have been approved to welcome back international students as of November, as long as students follow health guidelines and quarantine for 14 days.

A decision on the next public school year will be made closer to September.

"We're certainly planning and hoping for them to come back in the fall. Obviously there's a lot of unknowns," Boulter said.

"We certainly value international students. We can't wait to have them back. And we're hoping for September, but we realize there's a lot of factors outside of our control before we get to that."

In an email Monday, a spokesperson for the education department said the health and safety of local and international students is "our top priority."

"We value our international students and we look forward to welcoming them when it is safe to do so; we hope to do that in September," said Violet MacLeod.

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