International student registration has been unpredictable during the COVID-19 pandemic, but more than 50 arrived in Nanaimo over the past few days and another dozen are still expected this school year.
School district officials said international students were a big unknown during 2020-21 budget planning. In a January education committee meeting presentation, Rob Hutchins, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ district principal of international student education, said that while 315 students from abroad were in the district in 2019-20, this school year that number has halved to approximately 160 students. The third and fourth quarters of the school year will see 74 international students, 57 of whom arrived Jan. 14-18, according to the district.
Fifty international students stayed in the district over the summer while 17 came to the district in September, said Hutchins. The students were “largely returning students,” he said.
Sixteen came to the district in November and 10 are signed up to be educated remotely as the district established a distance learning option via Global Education, which provides distributed learning to non-residents. Nine of those are expected to come to the district by the middle of January, Hutchins said at the meeting.
International students are allowed into the country under Government of Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, the B.C. Ministry of Education said in an e-mail. The ministry said it has worked with both governments to establish safe protocols, including processes for arrival and quarantining. Students must have proper travel documents and are allowed entry if they meet requirements and follow quarantine rules, the ministry said.
As of Jan. 6, Hutchins said there were 33 students who had completed quarantine and there are contingencies in place should their host family not be able to accommodate quarantine. There are five such instances in the recent group of arrivals, he said.
“For those homestays that can’t quarantine a child because of age of the homestay, somebody over 65, a health-related issue or because of their job … they go to another homestay that’s willing to quarantine an additional child or they don’t have a child and they just want to be part of the program,” said Hutchins.
The district holds daily Zoom meetings with quarantined children, he said.
This school year, the greatest number of students come from China, with 54 students, followed by Germany with 40, Hutchins said.