Reading week travel rules range for K-W, Guelph students in residence — including 14-day isolation

The province is still telling everyone to stay-at-home — but it's unclear what exactly that means ahead of reading week for students who live in residence at local universities and colleges.

Guelph, Waterloo, Laurier, Conestoga each have different rules for students considering travel

Ahead of the reading week break, Guelph, Waterloo, Laurier and Conestoga are all giving differing travel advice to their students in residence. It ranges from recommendations to cut down contacts to mandatory 14-day isolation. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

The province is still telling everyone to stay-at-home — but it's unclear what exactly that means for students living in residence at university and college ahead of reading week later this month.

University of Guelph, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University have all landed on different travel advice and are in the process of telling residence students.

The reading week break, which runs February 15 to 19, would usually see some students head home or travel abroad.

Guelph has the strictest guidance, coming off a significant COVID-19 campus outbreak linked to residence parties. As part of that outbreak, 66 students have tested positive for the virus and at one point, nearly a quarter of all residence students were isolating. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said 58 of those students have now recovered.

The university is "strongly encouraging" students in residence not to leave during the break. If they do, there will be a mandatory 14 day isolation when they return to campus.

That means keeping to their rooms and getting meals dropped off at their residence door if they are on meal plan. The university says all students in residence are already in single rooms.

"If students are feeling ill while away from residence, they have been told not to return until they are healthy," Deirdre Healey, a university spokesperson, said in an email.

Students in residence this semester: 840 (typically closer to 5,000).

University of Waterloo

Similar to Guelph, the University of Waterloo "strongly advises" its students in residence not to travel over the break. 

"Many of us feel fed up and tired of these restrictions. But unnecessary travel will put people at risk and we must not let our guard down," said president Feridun Hamdullahpur in a letter sent to students Thursday.

Waterloo's president Feridun Hamdullahpur sent a letter to students Thursday discouraging travel. 'Unnecessary travel will put people at risk.' (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

For students who do leave, the university suggests they limit their contacts or "consider a self-quarantine" of 10 to 14 days before leaving campus and ahead of coming back.

The isolation is not mandatory.

Students in residence this semester: About 2,000 (usually closer to 5,000).

Wilfrid Laurier University 

Laurier is encouraging students to follow public health and provincial travel advice and explains it is keeping its residence open and staffed over the break to "limit travel."

For students who do head home, Laurier encourages them to self-quarantine or reduce contacts for 10 to 14 days before leaving campus — and again when they return.

If students need to isolate when they get back to campus (if they've travelled out of country, for example), the school has created "special quarantine units."

Students in residence this semester: About 800, between Waterloo and Brantford campuses.

A University of Guelph housing staff member helps a student with a move. The number of students in Guelph's residences recently increased to 840, from 550 in the fall semester. Typically, it would house around 5,000 students. (University of Guelph Student Housing Services/Instagram)

Conestoga College

Conestoga's reading week isn't until March 8, but it's already making plans for its students living in residence. Staff are checking in with each student individually to see if they will be travelling. 

If so, they will have to fill out a screening assessment in order to get back into residence. That includes questions about travel, exposure, symptoms and close contact with potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

"A failed screening will result in no entry until such time as they can pass the screening assessment," said the college's Brenda Cassidy in an email.

Students in residence this semester: Just over 200 (usually around 500).


Haydn Watters is a roving reporter in Ontario, mostly serving the province's local CBC Radio shows. He has worked for the CBC in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and entertainment unit. He ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont. You can get in touch at


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