The announcement from Quebec’s education minister that students should head back to school in the fall amid the novel coronavirus crisis has put pressure on some institutions to change their plans.
But some say adjusting to the new directives won’t be easy.
Concordia University’s semester will still be mostly online, but some activities — such as teaching labs and art studios, for example — will be in-person.
“Two of our main teaching buildings are …14 and 15 storeys, respectively,” said Vannina Maestracci, a spokesperson for the university.
“Given the configuration of elevators, escalators, staircases, bringing one cohort of students into those buildings, moving them out when a class finishes, carrying out sanitation and welcoming the next cohort is very challenging while respecting the social distancing requirements.”
McGill says its plan to hold most classes online also remains in place, but added it hopes to offer some in-person activities that may gradually increase over time.
Behind the quiet scenes at CEGEPs and university campuses, meanwhile, staff are abuzz with meetings planning for the upcoming fall semester.
“Well, we’re dealing with a really unprecedented situation,” said Richard Filion Dawson College’s General Director.
Quebec’s education ministry new directives are making planner harder, he says.
“With all the constraints that we have to abide by, it’s a real headache, it’s a real challenge,” Filion said.
Dawson College is planning for a mix of online and in-person courses and activities. Filion is now adapting the plans to bring more students in.
He says it’s a scheduling nightmare.
“This is the most daunting aspect of what we have to do because we cannot really split the groups,” Filion explained.
But the hardest thing Filion says is bringing thousands of students back under one roof, while at the same time complying with public health rules.
He says instructions don’t necessarily match up.
“Is it a contradiction? They hope for the best, they ask us to do for the best,” said Filion.
“I think that, realistically-speaking, they are aware at the ministerial level that we will have to operate within limitations.”
Vanier College officials say the issue is lack of communication between the different government ministries and with the CEGEPS.
“I mean, there are 48 public CEGEPS in Quebec serving almost 140,000 students…we’re a significant operation so that responsiveness is crucial,” said Vanier College Director General John McMahon.
Vanier’s back to school plan involved holding teaching most classes online, but bringing the presence of students of technical programs into the installations up to 60 per cent of the time.
Now they’re looking into adding more students to comply with the new directives.
Institutions have the flexibility to adapt plans to their particular institutions.
— With files from Global’s Dan Spector and Brittany HenriquesView link »