SACKVILLE, N.B. -- Students heading back to university in September are preparing for the COVID-19 protocols that will make this year unlike any other.

In Sackville, N.B., some Mount Allison University students have already begun their mandatory 14-day isolation period ahead of classes. This coming school year will be a mix of both online and in-person classes.

“I have a few labs that are in-person, and you really can’t get lab skills over the computer, so I think it was really important to come and get those in person,” says student Charlotte Hache.

Thorique McKenzie, a third year biology student, recently arrived from the Bahamas and has already finished his mandatory two week self-isolation period.

“The first week was very easy, but the second week it got rather hard, because I had to find new ways to keep myself entertained,” says McKenzie.

He’s one of the many students required to self-isolate for 14 days prior to classes beginning on Sept. 8.

“We have just under 200 students coming in for self-isolation,” explains Jean-Paul Boudreau, president and vice-chancellor of Mount Allison. “We’re going to have 14 days of programming. For students who are from outside of Canada, there will be COVID testing on days 10 and 11.”

This school year will mean getting used to some new rules, including mandatory masks inside all campus buildings and classrooms.

“Wearing masks, making sure that we’re staying outside. We’re going to be having more outdoor events. There’s going to be certain things that have changed with the meal plan, for example, outdoor barbeques. We’re going to have a golf cart going around campus to deliver food to students living in residence,” explains Jonathan Ferguson, president of the Mount Allison Student Union.

The Mount Allison/Sackville Bubble Welcome Centre officially opened to students on Thursday.

The ‘Mount A bubble’ is partnering closely with the town of Sackville, where the economy relies heavily on its university students.

“We know our local business depends on not just students, but faculty and staff as well,” says Jamie Burke, chief administrative officer of the town of Sackville. “So certainly the health and well-being of the university translates into the health and well-being of our town as well.

Around 2,200 students enrolled at Mount Allison last year. Enrollment numbers for this year will not be made available until Oct. 1, but the university is anticipating hundreds of students will not be returning due to COVID-19.

The Maple League university has created a ‘back-on-track plan’, should there be a second wave of COVID-19, as well as a dedicated residence in place for anyone who may need to quarantine.