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Scaled back international program continuing with 'very rigorous' COVID-19 precautions

The popular international student program run by the Canadian Rockies Public Schools division that helps with revenue for additional staffing and resources is continuing under strict COVID-19 provincial and federal precautions.
Canmore Collegiate High School
Canmore Collegiate High School

BOW VALLEY – A popular international student program that brings in added revenue to help with staffing and resources for the Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) division is continuing under strict COVID-19 precautions.

The program – which typically runs at about 50 students – will have 25 participate this year to further their education in the Bow Valley.

And while the pandemic has brought intense travel restrictions across the country, any incoming international student will have to have a minimum three negative tests in the span of about 10 days.

Superintendent Chris MacPhee and Steve Greene,  director of technology, learning and facilitie’s, highlighted the testing undergone before arriving at Calgary International Airport.

MacPhee called it a “very rigorous” process that took several months of development.

International student programs worked together with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada during the spring and summer to create a “fit to fly” COVID-readiness plan. When the plan was completed, it was submitted to the province. Alberta gave the OK in early November, according to the report.

As part of the plan, a negative test is needed 72 hours before boarding the plane and another after arriving at the Calgary International Airport. The students are then taken to a local motel to quarantine. If they’re on a direct flight, they’re able to have their third test after seven to eight days.

The province also requires all incoming travellers to monitor symptoms for two weeks regardless of the testing outcome. Canada Border Services Agency also requires the ArriveCan app to be on each incoming person’s phone.

Before coming to Canada, a detailed COVID-19 readiness plan is sent out to each student. A Google Meet is scheduled to explain the procedures for each incoming student.

The program has been popular among international students wanting to learn in Canada. The current students are from nine different countries, including Germany, Spain, Chile and Japan.

While it gives international students the ability to learn and experience the Bow Valley, it has also helps school board coffers each year.

However, the arrival of the pandemic left an initial unknown financial hit.

MacPhee said a regular year with 50 international students generates between $400,000 and $600,000 in revenue, which goes directly into the school system for teachers and resources.

However, with many students returning home earlier than expected last year and the majority of the 25 students not arriving until just before Christmas, it meant a drop in revenue.

MacPhee said they’re likely to see a 75 per cent decline in revenue this school year and had a roughly 30 per cent drop last year.

While the initial months of the pandemic brought scepticism for the potential impact due to travel restrictions, the program has continued to be popular in bringing international students to Bow Valley.

Of the 25 international students enrolled in the program, seven arrived in November and December last year. A further 14 came on Jan. 13 and 14 and another on Jan. 27, according to the staff report.

MacPhee also said next year’s program is full at 50 students and the past two months have seen them turning away potential students.

He noted the program is always looking for host families to billet international students, which comes with $1,025 a month. The program can be reached at 403-609-6072 or international@crps.ca for more information.

The program allows international students to immerse themselves in Canadian culture, but also for local students to “broaden the horizons to the world they live in.

“The benefits of having international students here can create an awareness and a desire to learn about other countries when you’re exposed,” MacPhee said. “Our exposure to different cultures and communities is something that will only broaden your understanding of the very world we live and work in.”