International student programs in Winnipeg schools continue despite COVID-19 restrictions

Winnipeg school divisions say international student numbers have shrunk significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but those who are here pose no risk to local students or educators.

As junior and high schools begin their second semester Monday, St. James-Assiniboia School Division says they only have seven students enrolled until the end of the school year.

“Students must have a negative COVID-19 test before they fly to Canada and immediately go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival at their homestay family location,” said a spokesperson for the division.

“The students quarantine in their room and have no close contact with family members.”

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The school division checks in on the students daily, and they are also required to have a COVID-19 test before they begin school.

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“We are putting students in contact with one another remotely through group messaging so that they are not feeling isolated,” said the spokesperson, adding the division puts together a backpack with information, a journal and other things inside.

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Superintendent for Seven Oaks School Division, Brian O’Leary, said they currently have four international students.

“We would typically have 25,” he said. “We work through a non-profit organization that looks after homestays. They follow all public health requirements.”

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Over in Pembina Trails, 21 international students have arrived, all before the new travel restrictions, said spokesperson Stacy Ashley.

“We have also created an arrival guide document and a clearance card that our staff complete for each student before they can attend school,” she said.

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The largest division, Winnipeg School Division, said they have less than a dozen students from other countries in local schools this semester.

They, too, have been quarantined under public health rules and are supported through a program called Quarantine Club, said spokesperson Radean Carter.

“Q Club is both a mental health support and remote orientation and information program that is very important to the well-being and establishment of students coming to Winnipeg to study,” she said.

Teachers who work with international students are kept apprised of their progress during quarantine, said Carter.

“It was important for school staff … to have this information so that when it came time to invite them into their schools, the confidence in the process was in place and the school staff could immediately do intake and assessment for each International Student.”

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The same is true in River East-Transcona School Division, said spokesperson Amanda Guades.

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“We are welcoming 28 international students for the second semester,” she said.

“Students must have a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their entrance to Canada. As well, it is required that they present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result to the airline prior to boarding international flights bound for Canada,” she added.

“The 23 students who are part of our homestay program will go directly from the airport to a nearby hotel … to quarantine for 14 days.”

The students are allowed to go to their homestay family only after 14 days of no COVID-19 symptoms have passed and they have a clean COVID test done in Canada. The students are also monitored daily, said Gaudes.

“The safety of our students, staff and community are our priority.”

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