Nova Scotia

St. FX taking extra precautions as students leave dorms for home

The administration at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., is hiring small teams of movers to assist students as they move out of their residence buildings. It's a measure being taken to keep parents safe and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Antigonish, N.S., university offered in-person classes this academic year

A sign marks one of the entrances to the St. Francis Xavier University campus in Antigonish, N.S., on Sept. 28, 2018. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Most universities in Nova Scotia are in the homestretch of a school year like no other, and are taking added precautions as thousands of students prepare to head home.

At St. Francis Xavier University, the only post-secondary in Nova Scotia to offer largely in-person classes during the pandemic, exams are ending this week and 1,400 students are set to leave their dorm rooms.

The school is making sure it is being done in a way that reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.

"As a safety precaution we are not allowing any parents or friends or guardians to come into residence buildings to assist students with moving out," said Jacqueline de Leebeeck, the school's director of student life.

"We are hiring small teams of people who can help with moving things that are heavier items, like fridges and whatnot."

The university, which had four positive COVID cases this school year, all linked to travel, has communicated its plan to students so parents won't be surprised when they arrive on campus for pickup.

Shirreff Hall, a student residence at Dalhousie University in Halifax, is shown. Nearly 800 students stayed in residence buildings this year at Dalhousie. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

This week is expected to be a busy one as the last exams at the school are scheduled for Wednesday. With so many people coming and going, added measures are in place.

"There are a few things changed around to try and accommodate the extra traffic and minimize interactions," said de Leebeeck. "We are also providing some washroom facilities for them because we recognize they'll need somewhere to go to the washroom while they are waiting."

Acadia University went with a hybrid system this school year as some students were on campus while others were online only. The school had 780 students staying in residences this year and had two positive cases of COVID-19 in the academic year.

"Students can have one family member or friend enter the residence building to help them move out," said Sherri Turner, Acadia's director of university communications.

Along with wearing a mask and practising good hand hygiene, their time is limited to 30 minutes. "Family members who are required to quarantine in Nova Scotia may not enter residence buildings to assist with move-out," Turner said.

Incoming travellers still have to isolate

Dalhousie University and Saint Mary's University, both located in Halifax, are using similar guidelines.

The majority of students at Dalhousie have been getting their schooling online. In a normal school year, 2,500 students would have stayed in residences but this year that number was reduced to 780.

Saint Mary's students used online learning all year and between 350 to 400 students stayed in residence at any given time this year.

Other than the brief pickup/drop off of the student, parents (or anyone else) coming from outside Atlantic Canada must self-isolate while in Nova Scotia.

The person can turn around and leave right away without quarantining for 14 days, but other than picking up/dropping off their student, they must isolate in their accommodations or vehicle while they are here.