Both of Lethbridge’s post-secondary institutions opened their doors to in-person learning on Wednesday, and students were excited to set foot on campus.
“It’s fantastic. I love being around people and learning in this type of environment,” said fifth-year University of Lethbridge student Taylor Derksen, walking out of her first class of the fall semester.
“It’s just a completely different feel, much better to be in person,” second-year U of L student Brayden Anderson said.
The U of L and Lethbridge College have committed to in-person courses this year.
For Cherie Vowker, chair of the college’s school of spatial design technologies, the classroom setting can’t be replicated online.
“The energy is mind-blowing. It is both familiar and unfamiliar for us to be here, but the students are full of energy, and they’re super excited,” Vowker said.
“It’s nice to be back in school,” first-year Lethbridge College student Hunter Nixon said.
“Having teachers explain the harder-to-grasp concepts, it’s pretty difficult over the computer.”
The return of school also means the return of athletics.
Pronghorns athletic director Neil Langevin says player and spectator safety remains a priority, with daily check-ins for the athletes this season and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test required for fans to attend games.
“There have been lots of issues, obviously, lots of concerns raised within our own department, but we’re working hard to make sure we can fulfill our whole season and play,” Langevin said.
COVID-19 measures continue to be in place at both schools.
Lethbridge College students can take courses online alongside those in class while the university has upgraded air filtration and cleaning techniques.
“We’re offering a real high-flex pathway for (students), so the ones that need to be online still can be while we’re filling our classrooms as well,” Vowker said.
“The feedback is really positive with how we’re doing things… I think they feel both safe and energized by the environment.”
University director of operations and maintenance for facilities Wim Chalmet says the new process will clean more surfaces with fewer staff members.
“We are using what’s called a victory machine, which is a sprayer that disperses a very fine mist of cleaning solution in electrostatic waves so it clings to the underside of desks,” Chalmet said.
“It allows us to effectively kill COVID-19 that’s present. These machines are literally a lifesaver because we are able to clean so much more efficiently, more effectively at the same time.”
While the environment will be different, faculty and students are happy to be back face to face, even if it’s through a mask.
“It’s an amazing experience. It’s just nice to get in a classroom with all my peers,” Anderson said.
“That connection with people, it just can’t quite be there through things like text or Zoom,” Vowker said.
“I’m excited to connect face to face… and I probably feed off that energy a little bit and pass on my energy.”
Masks will be mandatory inside buildings and anyone with COVID-19 symptoms must remain at home.