Students in La Cité's respiratory therapy program could lose the school year after teachers said there isn't enough time to complete the curriculum due to the college strike. 

After five weeks with no classes due to a labour dispute, students returned to 24 colleges across the province on Tuesday. 

Staff were scrambling to figure out how to fit an almost-full semester into the remaining year, and they concluded Christmas break would be shortened and classes would run until the end of April. 

But programs like respiratory therapy are beholden to a country-wide education plan and exam, and the faculty worries there's not enough time to teach the curriculum covered on the exams. 

"We have to cram five weeks into an extra two or three weeks they've added to the schedule," Debbie Harrigan, an instructor, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday. 

"We can't decide what to cut off."

The school didn't respond to CBC News' question about whether an exception could be made for the program this year.

'We want the quality education we deserve'

Students said many teachers have not shown up to classes yet. 

The 77 students in the program now have to decide whether to drop out, receiving reimbursement and lose a year, or cram for the exams and take them unprepared.

"I'm tired of being put in limbo," Brittany Démoré, an upper-year respiratory therapy student, told Radio-Canada on Thursday. 

"We want to be in class, but at the same time we want the quality education we deserve."

Brittany Démoré la cite collegiale strike

Brittany Démoré said the strike left her feeling like the school didn't care about its students. (Laurie Trudel/Radio-Canada)

Démoré and her classmates have to choose between taking a $500 inconvenience fee or dropping out of the semester for a full reimbursement. They have until Dec. 5 to decide. 

"I think they're going to look up to us to decide what they're going to do," said Harrigan. 

Respiratory therapy is the only program at the school unable to condense the semester adequately. It appears Algonquin College's program may be facing a similar issue. 

Students are feeling the pressure.

"My feeling is I'm stressed, I'm really sad about the situation and it's emotional," said Karina Lalonde-Morgan, a first-year student. 

Karina Lalonde-Morgan la cite collegiale nov 23

Karina Lalonde-Morgan said the strike left her feeling stressed, sad and emotional. (Laurie Trudel/Radio-Canada)

Several respiratory therapy students sounded tense as they explained how the delays or failed exams would hijack their plans for the future. 

"We're just being put to the side as if our opinions don't matter," said Démoré.