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Dalhousie University confirms Jan. 31 resumption of in-person classes

Faculty, students wary as Omicron variant cases still high

3 min read
Dalhousie’s Henry Hicks building on Jan. 13, 2022.
caption Dalhousie University will return to on-campus classes on Jan. 31. The school postponed in-person classes due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus.
Maryanne McLarty

Dalhousie and King’s will return to on-campus classes on Jan. 31.

According to a memo sent Friday afternoon, students and faculty will return to campus on the last day of the month. 

“While COVID risks can be managed through our comprehensive health and safety planning, the serious negative consequences of losing another full term of in-person learning are very real,” wrote university vice-president Frank Harvey in the memo sent to the Dalhousie community. 

The email says some courses or course components will remain online, and students can expect clear direction on how that will affect their courses next week. 

Dalhousie student union president Madeleine Stinson said the school’s senior administration “didn’t really consult students” on the decisions being made about teaching during the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 virus. 

She said students were divided on how they wanted the rest of the term to go. 

“Students are very much like, ‘Just let me keep doing this online, I can get through it. It’s just easier this way.’ And some people are like, ‘No, I need to be in person, this matters for how well I’m engaging,’ ” said Stinson.

She also said she’s concerned that these mid-semester changes will make it difficult for students to stay so “resilient.”

 “I think more and more people are kind of reaching that point where they’re like, ‘Can we just not do this anymore? Can we just pick something and figure it out?’ ” she said. 

David Westwood, president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association, said even though most professors prefer teaching in person, they’re concerned for their health and safety. 

“The issue, though, is would you want to do it now with Omicron still being quite uncertain? The message I hear the most is it feels a bit too soon to be going back face to face.”

But according to today’s memo, new safety measures will be put in place in time for the return to campus.

All masks on campus must now have three layers, the quality of masks recommended by Nova Scotia’s public health authorities. 

Harvey said in his memo that Dalhousie has a 98.8 per cent rate of full vaccination on campus. He said booster doses are not required for students or staff to prove they’re fully vaccinated. 

William Lahey, president of the University of King’s College,  said he’s “very, very supportive” of the academic program getting back in-person.

“In the fall, it was my impression that the overwhelming majority of King’s faculty opted to teach their classes in person. And I hope that will be the case in this term,” he said.”

Other universities will also continue to take precautions to ensure safety on campus. 

Mount Saint Vincent and Saint Francis Xavier are also expected to return to campus on Jan. 31.

Gillian Batten, Mount Saint Vincent’s director of communications, said there is no reason to expect an extension on online school, and the university is going to continue to adhere to public health guidelines. 

St. F.X.  is taking multiple precautions to ensure safety on campus amid the Omicron wave. 

To prepare for the return, the school said they’ve ordered N95 masks for staff and faculty who wish to use them, and 30 HEPA ventilation systems for spaces without mechanical ventilation.

Westwood and the rest of the Dalhousie Faculty Association is advocating for Dal to provide the same thing. 

“We’re not optimistic, just because I know, supply chain wise, those masks are scarce and in quite high demand … But we do think it’s at least a reasonable thing to ask for,” said Westwood

NSCAD plans to return to in person learning on Jan. 17. Acadia and Saint Mary’s are expected to return on Jan. 24.

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About the author

Maryanne McLarty

Maryanne McLarty is a Halifax-based journalist from Oakville, Ontario. Her interests include listening to true crime podcasts and baking. She...

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