Most homestay staff feel they are prepared for the reopening phase of the pandemic - although they are not expecting a lot of students this fall. About 30 homestay staff from universities, colleges, school districts and agencies took part in our recent survey, responding to a range of questions about readiness and expected student numbers.
Asked whether they were set for the ongoing challenges of COVID, 57 percent of respondents said they were. While only a handful said no, 29 percent said they were "not sure." This may reflect the uncertainties that are associated with the pandemic - it's hard to prepare for the unknown.
One secondary school homestay coordinator said it helped to have a few international students remain in Canada over the summer. "This gave us many opportunities to plan for the next semester," said Brenda Langlois of the Cowichan Valley School District in British Columbia.
"We have every detail outlined in our safe arrival guide, as well as the quarantine package for the students," said one language school director.
Almost 60 percent of respondents are confident that they can ensure the safety of students, host families and program staff. "We analyzed all possible risks and for sure are prepared," commented Damaris Gugliotti of ILAC.
The survey indicated that a number of hosts are reluctant to provide quarantine to incoming international students. Only 25 percent of respondents said that hosts were generally willing to do quarantine. Almost half said "a few" hosts were willing to do so. A quarter stated that they are planning to use hotels for quarantine instead of asking hosts.
All programs reported that they expect a huge drop in the number of students coming to Canada and utilizing homestays. Many are shifting to online classes - meaning that individuals can study from their home country rather than come here. Other homestay staff indicated that students are reluctant to travel or may be unable to travel to Canada due to restrictions or difficulty getting a study permit.
The majority of programs are expecting a drop in enrolment of 50 percent or more this September compared to last year. As a result, they expect that most of their homestay spaces will be vacant this fall.