Due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Bow Valley College has postponed a return to in-person learning until Feb. 14 for all of its campuses.
“We are also following the advice of the chief medical officer of health. Taking everything into consideration, including the health and safety of our community, we decided to extend online learning to Feb. 14,” stated Leah Wack, Bow Valley College dean of regional stewardship, in an email on Jan. 13.
Until then, the college’s campuses, including those in Airdrie and Cochrane, will remain closed to the general public.
Programs at regional campuses are delivered in a blended format that have always provided regional students with the option to attend in-person at a campus or from another location of their choice, Wack added.
“For any given course, the instructor and students could be anywhere in the college’s service region, and they are joined together through MS Teams. This was our delivery model prior to the pandemic and continues to be the case,” she said.
For this reason, Wack said that the decision to postpone in-person learning will not affect regional students as much, as courses aren’t delivered in the same way as at Bow Valley College’s downtown Calgary campus. Support services to regional students have also always been available from a distance, Wack said.
“Currently, students who were previously choosing to attend in-person to use the computers at a regional campus are still permitted to do so by appointment. Some of our students do not have reliable access to a computer and/or stable internet in their home and we accommodate for that,” she said.
An update confirming planned return dates will be made by Jan. 31, according to a post on the college’s website.
Classes will continue to be delivered online until Feb. 13, and students requiring in-person access to the library, Learner Success services and academic advising can do so by appointment only.
While most Bow Valley College students will be learning online, one in-person learning setting that is ongoing are the college’s health-program labs. These health-lab facilities are not available at regional campuses and regional students enrolled in health programs attend their required labs at the Calgary campus, Wack noted.
In line with a policy passed in 2021, anyone attending the currently approved in-person lab components or in-person classes once resumed in February must provide proof of complete vaccination against COVID-19 to access the campus.
As of Oct. 22, students and staff of Bow Valley College were required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to be on campus, or be subject to rapid testing, in line with other universities within the province that have implemented the same vaccine mandate.
Students and employees at Bow Valley College are required to upload their proof of vaccination through an online tool provided by the college. An earlier press release stated that exemptions to the vaccine requirement would be made on medical grounds or other protected grounds under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The University of Alberta implemented a Winter 2022 start safe plan on Dec. 22, 2021, which includes three weeks of online courses and enhanced safety measures until at least Jan. 23.
The University of Calgary also moved courses online for the first three weeks of study in the winter term until Jan. 31, with exemptions where there is a requirement to be in person.
Mount Royal University in Calgary put out a notice that when classes started on Jan. 10, the majority of courses would be temporarily online until Jan. 22.
Similarly, the University of Lethbridge switched to online learning until Jan. 21, MacEwan University in Edmonton is delaying a return to in-person learning until Feb. 22, NAIT and SAIT shifted theory and lecture classes online until Jan. 21, and NorQuest College has moved to online delivery until Jan. 31.