International students will return to Nova Scotia schools in a phased approach.
The Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development says students who remained in Nova Scotia over the summer will be admitted in September, while a decision on those arriving from outside Canada will be made in December.
Zach Churchill says this is part of the province’s plan to minimize the risk levels as students return to school.
However, universities, colleges and private schools in Nova Scotia are accepting international students from abroad back into the classes this fall with the understanding they quarantine for 14 days and submit to three COVID-19 tests.
Churchill says the nature of the private schools and colleges allows them to contain and better monitor students in the closed environment of their campuses and dorms.
“With the public school system, you have essential have students that can be at 360 schools in every single community across the province.”
The education minister recognizes Nova Scotians are already on edge about sending children back into the classroom in two weeks.
“As we open up our school system, we just wanted to make sure that we were mitigating as many risks as we can. Especially considering the high level of anxiety people have as we reopen schools.”
Churchill says his department made the decision based on recommendations from public health.
Despite a comprehensive plan from the Nova Scotia International Student Program, which would have seen students arriving from outside Canada quarantined at a hotel under strict supervision for 14 days, the province determined placing those students into the community posed too great a risk.
The province’s chief officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says there needs to be an appropriate level of safety around COVID-19.
“Having students come live with families here in Nova Scotia does put us at increased risk of bringing COVID-19 into the province.”
Churchill appreciates people were expecting to come and billet families were looking forward to hosting international students but the department had to prioritize getting Nova Scotia schools up and running first.
“We want to get through semester one, see how this all works and see what COVID does and see if all of our safety measures are working to the extent that us and public health believe they will. Then reach a decision point on international student admittance after semester one.”
Reported by Ed Halverson