Prepare for in-person learning in the Fall, says minister

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In a press release issued this Thursday, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides stated that there will be a “full return” to in-person learning at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions this fall.

“As we plan to transition back to in-person learning, the safety of students, staff and faculty will be our top priority. We will be working closely with Alberta Health and our chief medical officer of health, Dr. Hinshaw, to ensure a safe return to campus in September 2021,” Nicolaides said.

Nicolaides noted the provincial government’s commitment to get one dose of vaccine to every Albertan who wants it by the end of June as a factor in this decision.

The minister also noted the stresses and challenges that universities have faced in the pandemic. 

“Over the past year, Alberta’s post-secondary institutions have adapted to the changing circumstances of the pandemic to protect students, staff and faculty. I want to express my gratitude to all faculty and staff members for their continued cooperation and hard work in keeping our campuses safe while still supporting students. The switch to online learning has not been easy, but our staff and students have all done great work to respond to the pandemic and maintain the quality of our post-secondary system,” Nicolaides said.

In February, the U of L announced that they were planning for a “significant return” to campus. This “significant return” framework included blended (mixed in-person and online) learning, and a potential cap on room capacity at thirty per cent to allow for physical distancing. Residence capacity will also increase from 285 students to at least 700 students—going from about thirty per cent capacity to at least seventy. However, no official plans have been released.

Later in March, the U of L announced that students should prepare to be in Lethbridge and be able to take in-person classes in the Fall semester. Now, with the provincial government on board for a return to campus, in-person learning in the Fall seems certain.

However, a bumpy vaccine rollout and surges in the more transmissible COVID variants leave the future uncertain.

The U of L has not released any detailed plans for what campus will exactly look like in the Fall. However, they have pushed back registration for the Fall semester to May 4 in order to prepare for the changes.

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