OAKVILLE, Ont. – As post-secondary institutions across the country wrap up a spring semester upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, one Ontario college said Thursday it is “optimistic” students will be able to return to campus for classes in the fall.
Sheridan College said it is preparing to welcome students in September, but added it is also planning for the possibility that physical distancing measures meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus will remain in place.
“We’re optimistic that a return to on-campus classes will be possible, but are working on contingency plans that include remote learning and staggered access to campus,” Janet Morrison, president and vice-chancellor of the Oakville, Ont.-based school, said in a statement.
Colleges and universities across Canada had to switch to online classes when the pandemic forced them to close their campuses in March.
Many schools have said it’s still unclear what the fall semester will look like as the public health crisis changes daily.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford this week unveiled a series of steps for reopening the province but would not give a timeline for that process to begin.
In a letter to students earlier this week, the University of Ottawa’s president and vice chancellor noted the provincial government has been “silent” on when campus activities can resume.
“Without permission to reopen our campus it will remain closed for all of us except those who absolutely have to work on campus,” Jacques Fremont wrote, adding the school is preparing a “progressive reintegration plan.”
“We are mobilizing the entire campus to be ready to teach in-person or online, or some combination of the two.”
Chris Whitaker, president and CEO of Toronto’s Humber College, said the school is weighing options for the fall and looking at how it may be able to “adapt in-person education to meet health and safety requirements.”
“This is uncharted territory for all of us,” Whitaker said in a statement. “We all look forward to the day when we can resume our regular activities.”
The minister in charge of Ontario’s post-secondary education system, Ross Romano, said recently he anticipates an increase in post-pandemic enrolment.
“If you look at what happened after the global recession in 2008-2009, you saw a huge increase in enrolment in all of our institutions,” Romano said in an interview last week.
“I think we’re going to be dealing with that at a more significant level this time. But there’s no way to predict exactly what’s going to happen come the fall.”
— With files from Shawn Jeffords.