Continuous online classes at University of Saskatchewan could have wide impact on businesses

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Continuous online classes in Saskatoon could have wide impact on businesses
WATCH: With the University of Saskatchewan’s plan to keep classes online into its fall semester, businesses that rely on students are worried about taking a hit – May 14, 2020

With the University of Saskatchewan’s plan to keep classes online into its fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses that rely on students are worried about taking a hit.

“We used to have a lot of walk-in customers. Even on weekends, when the university’s closed, students keep us busy,” said Sanjay Joshi, owner of Wow Pizza.

His restaurant is on College Drive, across from the university.

“We don’t have any sitting space, it’s only takeout and delivery [now] so no more students are coming in,” Joshi.

He said his business relies on word of mouth to bring in more customers.

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Now their sales are down around 30 per cent, he said. While the summer is the restaurant’s “dry period”, Joshi said he’s worried that could last the rest of the year.

But it’s not just restaurants that are struggling.

Campus Vision opened on the university’s campus in October.

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The optometrist’s office was part of phase one to reopen earlier this month. However, the university doesn’t have a reopening date yet.

“Their buildings are actually locked,” said manager Lizann Bougie.

“Nobody has access to them other than their critical core, so our hands are tied.”

Campus Vision has tried to adapt by selling contact lenses online, but that’s a fraction of its usual business, Bougie said.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Landlord Association said it’s concerned about landlords who rent to students.

About 20 per cent of renters in the province are students.

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Without in-person classes, the association says many students will likely move home, whether that’s within the city our outside the province.

Some students have broken leases and moved out already, the association said, since there are fewer job opportunities and their spring/summer classes are already online.

The association said that right now, it can’t predict how many students will leave Saskatoon, saying it will have a better idea in June.

With students moving out, vacancy rates are going up, something the association said can lead to competition between landlords driving down prices.

“If rental prices come down we will become more concerned because of the impact that has on returns, but also the health and well-being of our rental properties and property values,” said the association’s executive officer Cameron Choquette.

There’s no word on when in person classes will resume at the university. For now it’s a waiting game for businesses relying on university students.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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