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N.S. university makes last-minute change, no longer having on-campus classes

Click to play video: 'N.S. university changes mind about in-person classes after winter break' N.S. university changes mind about in-person classes after winter break
Watch: Nova Scotia’s smallest university went against the grain after the holiday break, announcing that students would be coming back to compass for classes despite a rise in COVID-19 cases. And many were already back at Université Sainte-Anne when the school changed plans to move to remote learning. Alexa MacLean reports. – Jan 18, 2022

Students at a small Nova Scotia university are adjusting to a change in their semester, after the school abruptly reversed its decision about on-campus learning after the winter break.

Fewer than 600 students attend Université Sainte-Anne in the Acadian French community of Clare, N.S.

Read more: COVID-19: Premier says time to ‘buckle down’ as N.S. reports 1 death, 13 new hospitalizations

After a fall semester of hybrid learning, the university told students to return to campus this January. This was despite a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the province, driven by the Omicron variant.

“Online learning was going to be completely eliminated from the start of the term to the end of the term. That was the plan two months ago,” fourth-year student Emily Fisher told Global News.

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Fisher said when COVID-19 cases shot up before the holiday break, the university planned to return to hybrid learning — which is a mix of on-campus and virtual classes — for the first two weeks of the winter semester. After that, the school planned to proceed with in-class learning only.

“People from New Brunswick, I know some folks from Montreal who made the trip back,” Fisher said.

Click to play video: 'Dalhousie University implements proof of vaccination policy for winter term' Dalhousie University implements proof of vaccination policy for winter term
Dalhousie University implements proof of vaccination policy for winter term – Nov 25, 2021

The semester began on Jan. 11, and students had been back for less than a week, when an abrupt change of course was announced.

“It’s been a complete 180 shift where now it’s online only, where in-person learning is no longer an option and I am heartbroken about that,” Fisher said.

Global News made several attempts to speak to someone from the university, but did not receive a response.

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The notification sent to students on Jan. 12 states the decision to only have virtual learning for the winter term was made “to mitigate the risks and in an effort to protect the health and safety of our university community.”

“Université Sainte-Anne will continue to remain flexible and students who wish to do so can still live in residence. As usual, many services are offered to the student population in order to support them and help them succeed in their distance learning,” the notice read.

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Dalhousie University in Halifax, which has more than 20,000 students, currently plans to resume in-person learning on Jan. 31.

“I completely understand the concern of that and I understand that the pandemic has been unpredictable,” said Fisher. “I just wish the university had let that two-week period go by before making that decision, I think it was made very quickly.”

She added she hopes the university will reconsider its decision so that students in their final year, like her, are able to cherish some in-person connections.

“I really would be very, very upset, if we didn’t get to have that again.”

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