Some students could return to Western University campus in the fall, president says

Western University’s president expects students to return to campus in the fall, but not nearly as many.

After the spring semester was cut short, with students required to finish their learning online, Alan Shepard says the plan is to have students back on campus in September — at least a portion of them.

Western University pivoted to a virtual campus in mid-March as concerns over the spread of COVID-19 shifted courses to online learning.

Calling it a mixed model approach, Shepard says some courses will continue to be done virtually, while others will be delivered face to face.

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“The isolation of the last two months has reminded us all of the essential value of being together,” Shephard said.

“The senior leadership team is working all-out on developing a mixed model that would preserve the safety of our community, carefully follow ministry and public health regulations, and preserve as much of the in-person educational experience for which Western is known.”

Shephard says the university is planning for residence spaces, alternative classrooms, transportation, testing centres and expanded food services to accommodate physical distancing.

He admits the changes will drastically reduce the number of students the university can have on campus and says the reductions “could be significant.”

The plan isn’t set in stone, and Shephard says the university will continue to follow provincial health guidelines.

“The evolving pandemic is still so dynamic, and government and public health authorities rightly need to react,” said Shephard.

“We’ll need to be nimble and plan with the right amount of flexibility for any significant changes that might come.”

Details on the fall semester are expected to be finalized prior to June 1.

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