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University of Manitoba, Red River College look at moving classes online, other methods in wake of novel coronavirus

David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba, says the university campuses are not closed, but measures are being put in place to protect students and staff from COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The University of Manitoba is working with its educators to move classes and course materials online in case they need to cancel classes in the near future.

In a statement sent by U of M President David T. Barnard, he clarified that classes and the university are not currently closed.

“The campuses are not closed. However, we are limiting levels of on-campus activity in order to mitigate COVID-19 transmission,” he said.

READ MORE: Manitoba announces first presumptive case of novel coronavirus in Winnipeg; Mayor Bowman outlines city’s response

Manitoba recorded its first presumptive case of COVID-19 coronavirus Thursday, and the province and the city have started to make procedural measures to limit the virus’ spread.

The U of M is trying to do the same thing, said Barnard.

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“I recognize that these actions will cause disruption and inconvenience, but as Manitoba’s largest post-secondary institution with a student population of more than 29,000 and more than 10,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff, we have a responsibility to do all we can to lead the effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in this province.”

Barnard said the measures will take effect immediately.

“Deans have been asked to work with their departments and faculty to make all course materials for the remainder of the term available online and to consider alternate assessment methods that can allow for social distancing practices.”

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Other measures include working on an alternate final exam schedule, a possible online schedule for summer term, events expected to see more than 50 people cancelled, university related travel is suspended, and sick employees staying home.

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In addition, international students in other countries will be advised to come home to Canada, said Barnard.

“While keeping the university operational remains a priority, heads of units will assess options for staff to work from home. If feasible, work from home agreements will be initiated and support arrangements for the provision of the necessary tools to do so will be facilitated on a priority basis.”

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Student residences will stay open, said Barnard, as well as dining services where possible.

“None of these planned actions I have shared today with you are being taken lightly. I assure you that we are making decisions that we feel are the best for our immediate and wider community, and based on sound scientific advice.”

The University will keep students, staff and the community apprised of additional measures, he added.

Over at Red River College, similar measures are being taken.

A statement from the college says they are also looking at “alternative program delivery.”

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“Our campuses are currently open and our classes, labs and exams have not been cancelled, however, our Senior Leadership Team is working with academic program areas to determine alternative program delivery approaches and models that could be implemented in order to further reduce the numbers of students, faculty and staff on site.

“Additionally, RRC has suspended all international and domestic travel outside of Manitoba; cancelled all College events and large gatherings; and restricted the number of meetings to only those that are essential to core operations.”

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