When on a Friday in early October the news quietly came down that the federal government’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Services (IRCC) would be amending restrictions on post-18 March international student visas it was the culmination of much hard work and the meticulous development of plans and preparations by Pearson College UWC and many other schools and organizations across Canada.
Vice-President, Administration and Operations Ty Pile was behind efforts at Pearson and extensive cooperation with colleagues at the Independent Schools Association of British Columbia. He also pointed to the collective efforts of public, independent and post-secondary schools. Together, they created plans and made preparations that would ultimately allow all international students to be considered for study permits/visas that would allow them to pursue studies in Canada at designated institutions.
“The key was persistence, together with the hard work that demonstrated we did the research to create and implement health and safety procedures in accordance with respective provincial ministry guidelines, Public Health and WorkSafeBC measures both for incoming students and those already on campus,” says Pile. “Enhancing facilities to meet these requirements was an integral part of this.
“The planning and data gathering fed into the process that had Pearson confirmed as a Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) for COVID-19 purposes which also confirmed for the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education that we were a trusted institution for hosting international students in this province.”
At the same time, we were sharing updates with the Sc’ianew First Nation, Metchosin and Victoria communities. Reassuring local communities that the school has a solid plan in place is important for the “social permission” that the College needs to thrive as a long-time, respected institution in this area. This is also important for local volunteer Host Families who have traditionally (in pre-COVID times) stepped forward to provide students with off-campus respites.
Amended IRCC travel restrictions took effect 20 October and Year 47 international students, who have been participating in classes and activities online with Pearson, are already arriving in Victoria for their 14-day mandatory quarantine before joining the full campus community. As Canadian consular services reopen around the world and deal with visa processing backlogs, we expect some students may not arrive at Pearson until mid-November or later.
Although situations may vary for each student, some arriving individually may be accommodated in designated quarantine quarters on campus, while those arriving in larger numbers more or less simultaneously will be accommodated off-campus. In both scenarios, specific directions will be provided to both quarantining students and the Pearson community as to how everyone can support and respect this mandatory measure.
Staff and faculty across campus have learned much from this year’s “coronavirus immersion curriculum” and the lessons learned will guide the College as we welcome and integrate more students into the in-person Pearson experience over the coming weeks and months.