Coronavirus: Okanagan post-secondary schools watching on ‘hour-to-hour basis’

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COVID-19: Okanagan post-secondary schools preparing
COVID-19: Okanagan post-secondary schools preparing – Mar 11, 2020

In the Okanagan, post-secondary schools are major gathering spaces.

With concerns about COVID-19 looming, they are looking into alternatives to in-person learning, if necessary.

However, at this point, there are no plans to suspend classes at Okanagan College or UBC Okanagan.

“It is a bit stressing to think about what the effects could [be] on the school, lack of classes,” said one person as he waited for the bus at UBCO.

“I’m not too worried about it spreading on campus because it is not at a very high level right now. It could turn out much better than it seems.”

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More than 1,900 people have signed an online petition calling on UBC to suspend in-person classes over COVID-19 concerns, but it appears the petition organizer may be more concerned about classes in Vancouver than at the Kelowna campus.

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The school is not at that point yet.

The university is reassuring students it has no confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 and that university operations are continuing as usual.

However, the school is also preparing for possible disruptions.

“The university is looking into the potential for providing students with remote online learning and also the potential for remote exams,” Matthew Ramsey, UBC’s director of university affairs, said.

It’s a similar story at Okanagan College, where administration is following news about COVID-19 closely.

“[We’re] watching it almost on an hour-to-hour basis,” said Allan Coyle, Okanagan College’s interim VP of students.
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Staff at the college are training for the possibility they may need to move learning online.

“We’ve established regular patterns of communication with everyone hoping that it doesn’t transpire but preparing in case anything does come to pass,” Coyle said.

On both Kelowna campuses, there are mixed feelings about the possibility of shifting to virtual classrooms.

Some don’t think it would be much of a disruption while others are concerned about the impact on their learning or not being able to finish the semester.

Both schools are also ramping up their focus on facilities cleaning and encouraging hygiene.

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