University of Lethbridge plans for ‘significant’ return of students to campus in fall 2021

The University of Lethbridge says it’s anticipating “positive shifts” related to COVID-19 health measures in coming months, and is in the planning stages for a significant return of students to the campus for the fall 2021 semester. 

Last fall, the U of L said, it moved from just six per cent of classes being offered in person to 11 per cent. 

“We’re looking to increase that in the fall, we’re planning for a significant return to campus. More than that, we’re looking for opportunities to address some of the issues that our students have brought to our attention, issues of feelings of isolation, concerns about their mental health, some saying they find online learning to be a challenge,” said Kathleen Massey, associate president of students.

“We want to provide more opportunity for in-person learning experiences, but also social activities and access to services.”

In-person learning and activities

Massey said the pandemic has allowed the university to find creative ways to deliver in-person learning that involves sanitation, physical distancing and wearing masks.

“There are two working groups. The first planning group is focused on teaching and learning and students support, and the other is looking at logistical matters, health and safety,” she said. 

“The two of them are working collaboratively. We’re doing a lot of scenario building, looking at different ways that we can create a much more engaging experience, but very safely, in the fall.”

She said they’re also looking to increase the number of beds available to students in residence.

“We have just shy of 300 students living in residence right now, and we hope to increase that in the fall so that we can create a vibrant and lively but safe residents community,” said Massey. “It won’t be a thousand beds, but certainly it’ll be more than 300.”

Not a return to pre-pandemic conditions

Massey said although significant, the return to campus won’t look like it did before COVID-19.

“It won’t be the usual pre-pandemic experience, and that’s important because that means we’re paying attention to what we should be paying attention to, which is the health and safety of the community,” she said. 

“There will be some courses, for example, which will continue to be offered online because there won’t be a responsible way to offer them in person.”

Officials from both the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University said decisions about course delivery for fall 2021 haven’t been made yet.

Those decisions are expected in April. 

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