Like other post-secondary schools in Canada, Saint Mary’s University in Halifax draws revenue from May-to-August visitor bookings for rooms in on-campus residences.
But, like so many things, that’s a nonstarter this year.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the administration at Saint Mary’s to cancel its 2020 spring and summer accommodations service, a university spokesperson said Friday.
“We have made changes to our website to reflect the change in offerings, and are adjusting our listings on accommodations booking sites,” Cale Loney told HalifaxToday.ca. “We are also sharing this news with anyone who reaches out regarding bookings, primarily through our Conference Services office.”
Nova Scotia is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19, and university campuses in the province are closed to the general public.
At Dalhousie University, reservations booked with the school’s summer accommodations office are cancelled “until July 2 at a minimum,” Dal’s website says. All room deposits are to be refunded, it says.
Because of health-and-safety considerations, the virus has caused travel restrictions and event cancellations. So the demand for spring or summer room bookings here has plummeted.
In the past, on-campus rooms have been rented by individual tourists, groups of visitors and in advance of delegates’ conferences.
Saint Mary’s has more than 700 beds in its residences that, under normal circumstances, would be available before the start of the fall semester. Rates vary according to room size.
Usually, “stays would be between one and three nights,” Loney said via email.
Other universities in the Atlantic region have mothballed their lodgings service. For instance, the University of New Brunswick’s “summer hotel” won’t be available this year. (Inquiries about reservations for dates in 2021 will still be handled by UNB staff, the university’s website says.)
Even though out-of-town visitors won’t be able to stay at post-secondary dormitories, there are already plenty of folks living in some of them: foreign students who’ve remained throughout the virus crisis.
At Saint Mary’s, there are about 240 people staying on campus. The majority are international students, Loney acknowledged, “but there are also students from Canada who were unable to return home or make alternate accommodations.”
At Acadia University in Wolfville, less than 50 students are staying in residence this spring and summer, CBC News reported recently.
University administrators are mindful of the kinds of social-distancing challenges presented by the coronavirus, since lecture halls, classrooms, libraries, fitness centres and other sites on campus are people-gathering places.
Regarding fall semester classes, most post-secondary students in this province will be studying online due to public health concerns related to COVID-19.
Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and Cape Breton University will provide virtual learning when the next school year begins, according to news reports.
Dalhousie’s president announced on May 20 “the fall term will be predominantly online.”
Michael Lightstone is a freelance reporter living in Dartmouth