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Okanagan College remains open Wednesday, cancels on-campus classes for rest of week

Click to play video: 'B.C. health officials announce 45 news cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 231' B.C. health officials announce 45 news cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 231
WATCH: British Columbia officials announce 45 new cases of the novel coronavirus and no new deaths on Wednesday. The province now has a recorded total of 231 cases of COVID-19 – Mar 18, 2020

Given the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, some students at Okanagan College expressed surprise that some classes and exams still went ahead on Wednesday.

“I’m blown away that more hasn’t happened and that more isn’t being done,” Okanagan College student Silken Ostrom said.

“With people being asymptomatic for 10 days, half the class could have it, and they could be feeling fine,” she added.

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Ostrom believes the college is currently prioritizing students’ education over their health and said some instructors are struggling to make the transition to online classes.

“However, that’s not our responsibility, and our health and safety shouldn’t be put in jeopardy because of that,” she said.

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While some classes were still going ahead at the campus on Wednesday, Okanagan College said it is cancelling all face-to-face classes on Thursday and Friday to give instructors time to transition online.

“We’ve picked up some criticism for not immediately closing,” Allan Coyle, Okanagan College’s interim vice president students said.

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“The decision to close a campus is not wholly Okanagan College’s. We’ve been in touch with Interior Health, and we’ve been, up until a day ago, two days ago perhaps, assured that the risk was low,” he added.

“We’re picking up on the social anxiety around this, and we’re reacting as quickly and as best we can,” Coyle said.

The college says 90 per cent of academic classes have already shifted online.

However, trades programs present a special challenge, Coyle said.

“We’re looking at where we’re at in terms of how much shop activity the students have already had, and if there needs to be more, what that looks like, especially with respect to protocols such as social distancing,” he said.

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Coyle said it is possible some trades students might come to the college on Monday to work in the shops.

Meanwhile, other students also expressed concern that the virus could unknowingly be spreading around campus.

“It’s a bit weird thinking everything’s shut down but us,” Okanagan College student Laurent Neveu said.

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Coyle said the college has been working closely with the provincial health officer and Interior Health on a daily basis but hasn’t been told to cancel face-to-face classes.

However, Coyle said that if the campus was told to shut down, it will.

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