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With 'very strict' protocols in place, Georgian still bringing in international students

Dean of international education points out many of those students end up in nursing, firefighting and other essential services

Georgian College is still accepting international students, but due to the school's strict protocols, the numbers are nowhere near where they used to be.

Georgian College is known for its international student body, with more than 2,500 students from abroad attending the post-secondary school in a normal year.

As COVID-19 continues to change how the world lives and travels, those numbers have been drastically reduced, with about 25 per cent coming to Barrie for education.

Leslie Palson, Georgian's dean of international education and development, told BarrieToday the college’s protocols are some of the most stringent you’ll see.

“I’m really proud of our measures and all that we’ve put in place to make sure our students continue to get a great education and help the community,” she said. “A lot of these students end up helping through nursing, firefighting and other essential services.”

The college began accepting international students in November when it was allowed to start putting its plan together.

The steps a student must take to come to Georgian during the pandemic is a stringent one.

They must first test negative 72 hours before leaving for Canada. 

Once arriving, they then must be tested again before being sent to a hotel for three days to isolate. 

After that, they head to Barrie where they are directed to a pre-approved site. It could be a college residence, a local hotel or another site known to the college such as a dwelling previously lived at by the student or somewhere they have arranged to rent. They then must stay self-isolating for 14 days. 

“We’re getting about 100 international students as opposed to the couple thousand we normally have,” Palson said. “I know that has to do with traveling uncertainty, but I believe it is also because our rules are so very strict. We follow up with students who come here while they are in their 14 day isolation and will report them if they do not adhere to it.”

Palson says, so far, the college’s protocols are working and they haven’t had any non-compliance issues. In-person studies are not running as normal at Georgian campuses with select classes open and sizes reduced.

“It's mainly the credited programs that need a hands-on approach, like labs, that are seeing students. Also, our class sizes are much smaller than normal, and even then it depends on what the government colour code is or the order at the time,” Palson said.

“We’ve learned how to pivot when we need to," she added. 

The Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit completes all student testing and Palson says she's happy with the relationship with the local health unit. 

Still, Palson knows there are some who question having the students coming to the college at all during the current health crisis.

“There is some pushback  not a lot, but some  in the community from those who usually wonder why the ‘foreigners’ are coming here during this,” she said. “It's unfortunate, but I hope everyone understands the crucial role our international students play in our community with many assisting in emergency services and through technology companies.

“Also, I believe many will see our very strict protocols and realize that Georgian College is committed to not only educating the future generation, but also doing it an extremely safe way."