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BREAKING: U of A moves classes online for three weeks in response to COVID-19 Omicron variant

The University of Alberta's announcement states that classes will be moved online for the first three weeks of the Winter 2022 semester.

The University of Alberta has decided to move teaching and learning online starting in the Winter semester until at least January 23 due to the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

On December 22, the university released an announcement from Bill Flanagan, president of the U of A, stating that the university plans to suspend in-person classes in Winter 2022 for at least three weeks as part of a series of enhanced safety protocols. These changes come in response to the quickly-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant, and after a petition from students and staff urged the university to move the first two weeks of Winter semester online.

The petition was made available from December 18 to 20, and listed four suggestions for the university to follow heading into the Winter semester.

The suggestions to the university included:

  • Announcing immediately that the first two weeks of classes in the Winter 2022 semester go online to prepare for, and analyze, the fallout of the Omicron variant
  • Easy-to-access institute plans for widespread rapid testing.
  • Upgrading masking recommendations.
  • Carrying out room-by-room ventilation audits.

The petition also pointed out the fact that several universities in Ontario had made the move to online classes because of the Omicron variant, and some universities in the United States are requiring a three-dose vaccination status to go back on campus in January. Additionally, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge have also made the decision to start the Winter semester online.

On December 17, the university had released a weekly COVID-19 update, expressing plans to continue with their decision to have 90 per cent of classes in person. However, the new announcement reversed this decision and moved classes online.

The new announcement states that semester start dates have not changed, and courses already pre-approved for in-person delivery will go ahead as planned.

The following changes have been made:

  • Classes move online until at least January 23, and instructors will be reaching out to students before January 3 to confirm course delivery method
  • All open campus spaces will be asked to follow physical distancing guidelines of two metres including research spaces and laboratories, computer labs, and study spaces. 
  • U of A buildings will require ONEcard or key access, effective starting the evening of December 24.
  • All on-campus events, meetings and gatherings must move online or pause until at least January 23.

The announcement included that all employees able to work from home are encouraged to continue to do so. U of A Residences, study spaces, and Campus and Community Recreation Services, will be operating normally. Support services for students and employees will continue to be available online; in-person services are still to be determined. Additionally, the U of A libraries will be offering limited in-person access for students, accessible on their website.

Following the announcement, the Students’ Union released a statement that calls on the university to make further changes to accommodate for online classes.

Abner Monteiro, vice-president (academic), asked that the university to extend the add/drop deadline to the end of January, as well as improving the stability of the eClass website to prevent persistent website crashes.

The university’s announcement noted that U of A community members can expect an update for returning to in-person activities by January 18.

Correction: On December 22, at 2:35 p.m., this story was updated to state that classes will be online until at least January 23, 2022. This story previously included a different date. On December 23 at 12:00 p.m., this story was updated to correctly reflect the availability of U of A services during the first three weeks of the Winter 2022 semester. The Gateway regrets the error.

Jin He

Jin is the 2021-22 Production Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as a Deputy Arts and Culture Editor at the Gateway. If not sleeping, she can often be found supporting local artisans and sporting some wicked earrings.

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