International students from around the world are arriving in the West Kootenay to attend Selkirk College.
Selkirk College vice president John Kincaid says the number will be substantially smaller than usual with less than 50 international students attending the fall semester. A typical September would see an influx of 150 to 200 international students arriving across the region.
But nothing is typical about this September and COVID-19 means all of the students will be required to quarantine for 14 days before roaming about the community.
The students are coming from India, the Philippines and Europe.
According to Kincaid, the students are allowed to come in spite of the border closure because the federal government is still allowing students whose visas were approved prior to March 18 to enter the country.
Most of the students are flying as far as to Kelowna, at which point the college has arranged for them to be picked up by a shuttle and transported to the spot where they will be isolating.
“The purpose behind taking care of everything from the airport to the college is to ensure the safety of the community, students, staff and everyone involved,” said Kincaid.
“We want to ensure we are doing what we can to keep the community safe.”
During the quarantine period the students are being housed at either the Sandman Hotel in Castlegar, the Selkirk College dorms, at their home-stay accommodations or with relatives.
The college has arranged for monitoring of the Sandman Hotel site to ensure quarantine compliance, but home-stay monitoring is the responsibility of the student’s host.
Meals, food and supplies are being delivered to the students in the dorms and hotel. The college is footing the bill for these necessities during the quarantine period.
“It was a long discussion, but in order to ensure that we knew what was happening and where the students are we felt it was the right thing to do, and a good investment on our part, to ensure the safety of everybody,” said Kincaid.
After the quarantine period, the students will proceed like any other year and move to the accomadations they have arranged.
Due to the infrequency of international flights, the students have been given until Sept. 14 to arrive. Most will be participating in online classes or a hybrid of online and in-person classes depending on the program they are enrolled in.
Kincaid said the situation the college is facing is not unique to post-secondary institutions across the province, but that Selkirk College is “going above and beyond” to ensure the health and safety of the students and the community.
“We have erred on the side of caution, understanding that there is concern out there in the community.”