As it welcomes students from around the world and Vancouver Island back to campus, Pearson College UWC is managing a COVID outbreak of eight students who are in isolation in residence.
Since the start of the new term in early January, the positive case count for the international school in Metchosin jumped from two to eight among its 200 students aged 16 to 19, said director of communications Brian Geary. Each of the eight is dealing with mild cold and flu-like symptoms, he said.
One parent of a student at the school reached out to Black Press Media with concerns about how the outbreak was able to begin and how it was subsequently handled. According to the parent, symptomatic peers moved freely throughout residence buildings of 20 to 30 students. As well, he wrote, undiagnosed students are forced to isolate in their dorm with confirmed cases, leaving them “essentially sitting ducks for infection.”
Geary said the eight COVID positive students have been isolated to one of two residential buildings – the Maxwell Centre and Woodward Building – where meals are door delivered daily along with academic and counselling support. He added that the Pearson campus has a health centre where registered nurses provide every student with a rapid COVID test twice weekly.
Isolated students are still attending classes remotely, he said, along with the remaining student body who’ve attended from their dorms since classes resumed on Jan. 10. An assessment will be made on Jan. 24 towards the return of in-person classes, Geary said.
“The challenges that we have are the same sort that any other independent school on the Island or in Canada that has international students are facing, as well,” he said.
Pearson College is considered a post-secondary institution by the Ministry of Advanced Education. As such, international students are required to quarantine in a hotel for three days after landing in Canada and then isolate for 14 days after arrival at the campus. As per federal rules, they are tested for COVID before boarding and after disembarking their flight, as well as upon arrival at the college.
A number of international students instead chose to remain in Canada with friends or home stay families throughout the holiday break, Geary said, eliminating that process.
Echoing provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Geary said Pearson College plans to return to in-person learning as soon as adequate health and safety protocols allow.
“We’ve spoken to many, many parents throughout the pandemic – individually and throughout town halls. We are always happy to speak with any parent that has a concern about their children,” he said.
“Some students are concerned about going back to in-class learning and other students can’t wait to get to in-class learning … Like every other school out there, we’re trying to balance the considerations.”
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