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Calgary post-secondary institutions watch Omicron closely as winter semester approaches

Click to play video: 'Post-secondary institutions evaluate Omicron impact on winter classes' Post-secondary institutions evaluate Omicron impact on winter classes
WATCH: Calgary post-secondary institutions are watching the Omicron variant closely while determining teaching plans for the winter semester. As Jessie Weisner explains, classes could be moved online – Dec 20, 2021

Post-secondary institutions in Calgary are keeping a close eye on the Omicron variant while determining potential changes to the winter semester.

On December 19, University of Calgary president and vice-chancellor Ed McCauley sent a message to the campus community cancelling in-person exams for the rest of the fall semester.

All in-person block week activities were also cancelled.

Read more: COVID-19: Omicron variant detected at University of Calgary campus, provost says

On December 16, the university confirmed an individual on campus had tested positive for the Omicron variant.

“We had expressed our concerns to the university last week with actually proceeding with the in-person exams,” said Nicole Schmidt, U of C Students’ Union president. “We were pleased to learn that they made the decision in the best interest of students in order to keep them safe and move the remainder of the in-person exams online.”

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However, there is uncertainty on what the winter semester could look like.

Click to play video: 'UBC student leaders call for cancellation of in-person exams amid COVID-19' UBC student leaders call for cancellation of in-person exams amid COVID-19
UBC student leaders call for cancellation of in-person exams amid COVID-19 – Dec 19, 2021

In the message, McCauley says classes could be switched to online.

“The regular semester with in-person instruction is scheduled to begin on January 10th. It is possible that, as the Omicron situation becomes clearer, we will decide to delay the start of in-person instruction. While we hope otherwise, students, faculty and staff should be prepared for the possibility of online delivery over the month of January. We aim to decide on this matter by January 4th,” McCauley wrote.

Other post-secondary institutions are also waiting to see what comes to light with the Omicron variant.

Read more: Alberta considering opening COVID-19 boosters sooner than 6 months: Copping

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Mount Royal University has not cancelled in-person exams for the remaining two days of the fall semester, instead relying on health precautions in facilities.

“In October, MRU made the decision to delay the start of winter classes to Jan. 10, 2022. The university will continue to monitor developments associated with the variant in Alberta and will communicate with members of the community in the new year if emerging circumstances warrant a change to our approach in the Winter term,” MRU said in a statement.

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Alberta health minister says government watching Omicron variant ‘very closely’ – Dec 16, 2021

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) will evaluate any new information provided by the province.

“We are in alignment with the Government of Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program and follow the province’s public health guidelines specific to post-secondary institutions (CMOH 42-2021), controlled building access remains in effect at all SAIT campuses. We will closely monitor this current situation and will await further information from government.” Chris Gerritsen, SAIT spokesperson, said.

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Read more: 9 Alberta post-secondary institutions to require proof of COVID-19 vaccine to attend campus

Bow Valley College is assessing what learning and teaching will look like in January and is expected to have updates sometime this week.

St. Mary’s University is intending to update students about any changes in early January.

“We’re going to be meeting the COVID Emergency Task Force on January 4, which is our first day back on campus, to review whatever the current protocols are from the Medical Officer of Health,” said Tara Hyland-Russel, vice-president, academic & provost at St. Mary’s. “We will be finalizing our plans then and letting our students know that evening.”

The winter semester is set to begin January 10.

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