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VIU Postpones return to classes due to COVID-19 situation, NIC to have phased return

After announcements from the province this week, Vancouver Island University (VIU) is postponing its return to the classroom.

In an announcement Thursday, the university said they will be postponing classes until Jan. 10, similar to the province delaying K – 12 starts.

VIU says the decision will allow the university to assess the impact of the Omicron variant and plan for safety measures at schools. The New Student Orientation will be held online as well.

“The increase and sudden surge of the Omicron variant is dynamic and fluid,” said VIU in a statement. “We are delaying the start of classes to give our Health and Safety team time to reinforce our current safety protocols and implement any additional measures if needed. Our priority is to keep our staff, faculty, and students safe.”

The scheduling will be sent to specific programs like nursing, according to VIU, as they might not be able to have a late start.

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The university is still planning to return to in-person classes on Jan. 10, citing a letter from the provincial health officer. Dr. Bonnie Henry said in the Dec. 21 letter to post-secondaries that educational settings have low transmission rates and benefit student mental health.

North Island College is also still planning to return to in-person classes, however, they say they will start with a phased-in approach between Jan. 4 and 10.

“On Jan. 4, we’ll have a limited amount of programs in health and human services, such as practical nursing and healthcare assistant and then our trades programming both apprenticeship and foundation,” said Academic Vice President, Tony Bellavia. “Then on Jan. 10, the remaining programs will start on that day.”

Bellavia said students will continue to have a blended learning environment, with one-third in person, one-third online, and one-third in blended.

He added because of NIC’s small class size, it is easier for them to continue working in person.

UVic and UBC will be going online until at least Jan. 24.

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Bellavia said NIC is prepared to go online if they need to and are monitoring health orders from the PHO.

“We’re prepared as much as we can, we have a very robust teaching and learning centre,” said Bellavia. “If we need to transition or pivot based on the latest updates from the PHO office and the ministry, then we’ll be prepared to do so.

Bellavia thanks the work of teachers and students during the pandemic.

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