Province denies international secondary students for fall semester
'It certainly was a surprise at this late point'
The province will not allow international students to return to middle and high schools this fall.
The Department of Education informed the Nova Scotia International Student Program last Friday.
"It certainly was a surprise at this late point," said Paul Millman, the program's executive director.
Millman said NSISP was planning on students being allowed to return to classes this semester.
Organizers created a quarantine plan, which would have seen students stay in hotels for 14 days before being sent to their host families.
However, Millman said there was no provincial approval for the plan.
Acadia University and St. FX are allowing some international post-secondary students to return to campus.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has guidelines in place to allow international students who obtained permits or visas before March 18 to come to Canada to study. The guidelines include having a credible quarantine plan.
Millman said the province's decision has upset families of secondary students as well as the Nova Scotia families who host them.
"There's a lot of frustration and disappointment from families and partners around the world who had expected their kids to be back in Nova Scotia in September."
Millman said he's worried about what the decision will mean for students who were planning to graduate in Nova Scotia. Some students, particularly those from Asia, choose to spend their entire high school career in Nova Scotia with the intention of eventually attending university, or even immigrating to the province.
Approximately 130 of those students stayed in Nova Scotia over the summer. But around 175 students went home and are now unable to return.
The program brings in more than 1,000 students a year. The students pay a $9,000 tuition fee and $750 a month to their host families.
The province's decision only covers the September 2020 to January 2021 semester. The province will make a decision in December regarding the second semester.
A memo sent by NSISP to partner agencies urges those who are interested in online learning to get in touch. However, Millman said some would-be returning students may be looking at other provinces, like British Columbia, if there is room for them.
Rene Bourgeois, the owner and operator of New World Education, splits his time between Thailand and Canada and recruits students to Canadian high schools and universities.
He said he is scrambling for solutions for eight students who were set to return to Nova Scotia in the fall. He has found other provinces to take his first-time students.
"A lot of my kids who are not allowed to come back to Nova Scotia right now have been in the program for two, three, four years already and are now left out in the cold."
He said he was also surprised by the short notice given by the province.
"All the other school districts knew what they were doing and where they were going at the end of July so that's part of the problem, the timing," said Bourgeois.
In a statement to CBC, the province said it is taking a "sequenced approach" to reopening schools and that the decision on international students follows advice from public health.