Ontario college students return to classrooms after 5 week strike

It's the first day hundreds of thousands of college students will be sitting in a classroom again after the provincial government passed back-to-work legislation Sunday to end a five-week strike by Ontario college faculty.

Students say they're 'grateful to be back' despite compressed semester

College students head back to class for the first time since Oct. 15. (Linda Ward/CBC)

It's the first day hundreds of thousands of college students will be sitting in a classroom again after the provincial government passed back-to-work legislation Sunday to end a five-week strike by Ontario college faculty.

Some students at Humber College are feeling optimistic after enduring weeks of uncertainty.

"Things won't be the same, but I have faith in my professors in my program that they have a plan," Richard Williamson, broadcasting student said.

"I'm just grateful to be back."

The Liberal government first attempted to introduce the six-page page bill last Thursday evening after college faculty overwhelmingly rejected the College Employer Council's latest offer by 86 per cent.

But unanimous consent of all parties was needed, and the NDP refused, leading the government to introduce the legislation Friday. All parties agreed to a special weekend sitting to debate the bill.

It passed in Queen's Park Sunday afternoon 39-18. On Monday, 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians returned to work to prepare for classes to resume. 

No break between semesters 

Not all students are optimistic. Nursing student Adam Benjamin said he feels not having a break in between semester will be a burden for students.

"I don't want to feel rushed because I don't want to fail," Benjamin said. "We have a small Christmas break, no reading week, and then next semester right after this semester."

Colin Simpson, interim executive dean for academics at George Brown College said faculty has a plan in place. The school's 14 week curriculum has been condensed to 12 weeks. 

Broadcasting student, Richard Williamson, says he believes his professors will help students figure out the condensed semester. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

"We are also meeting with the counselling department to make sure those resources are in place as well," Simpson said.

Simpson is hoping students choose to finish the semester rather than opt out completely.

"We are confident our plans will ensure students will graduate in a timely manner but also also receive the full educational experience they signed up for," Simpson said. He added that there are still things that need to be sorted out in terms of collective bargaining. 

"But the relationship the faculty has with the students rise above everything else," Simpson said.

George Brown's winter semester will finish on January 19th in order to accommodate the missed time. 

Ontario has also ordered colleges to create a fund using money from the strike to help students who may have experienced financial hardship because of weeks of missed classes. 

Talia Ricci, Salma Ibrahim