College students return, but mostly online

By LAUREN THOMSON
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 11, 2022.

College students return, but mostly onlineVery few people are on campus this week, with most classes shifting to online learning as the Omicron wave takes off in Medicine Hat.–NEWS FILE PHOTO

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Medicine Hat College students headed back to classes Monday, mostly online, but Sandy Henderson, dean of Student Services and Registrar at MHC, hopes the shift will only be a temporary measure.

Henderson emphasized the college is “committed to ensuring the wellness of employees, students and the community, and of course, access to education.” MHC announced just before Christmas it would shift to online learning after the break.

“Most of our classes did actually start today,” said Henderson. “Most of them are fully online, while some do have a mix of online and in-person as appropriate. We did have some courses as well, like our trade programs, that started last week to meet provincial schedules and environments.”

Henderson told the News that a lot of staff who are able to are working from home right now.

“We’re being vigilant. I talked about how staff are working from home so we do have virtual environments, but we still want to make sure that’s a high quality learning environment and that we’re still supporting our students,” Henderson explained. “We still have some services available on campus as well. It certainly does put a strain on students, and our employees recognize that so people are being patient and supportive as we adapt with the situation changing quite frequently.”

Henderson said people who do come onto the campus, staff, students or otherwise, are required to adhere to COVID-19 policy. He also said enhanced cleaning routines are still being practised.

“The main message is, if you’re sick, stay home,” said Henderson. “I will say our operations are continuing and we’re able to serve appropriately.”

Henderson reported the college hopes to have students return to in-person learning on Jan. 21.

“We’re certainly monitoring the situation closely. It will depend on a lot of different factors that are outside of our control,” Henderson explained. “We do have a COVID Task Force at the college that continues to meet regularly.

“It’s a group of individuals at the college and we’ve been meeting regularly throughout this pandemic. We meet to ensure that we understand how the variant is affecting us, both internally and in our community. We will adjust our approach as necessary. (Having students back in-person on Jan. 21) is the goal and the hope, but hopefully we’ll have some more solid information in the near future.”

COVID-19 cases in Medicine Hat continue to rise, with 582 known active cases as of Monday afternoon.