Province expects Alberta post-secondary classes to resume this fall

The Alberta government says in-person classes at post-secondary institutions are expected to resume in the fall.

Many classes have been online during pandemic

The University of Alberta has been conducting online learning since March 2020. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

The Alberta government says in-person classes at post-secondary institutions are expected to resume in the fall.

"I encourage all post-secondary institutions, students and families to prepare for a full return to on-campus learning this September," Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides said in a news release Thursday.

"As we plan to transition back to in-person learning, the safety of students, staff and faculty will be our top priority."

Nicolaides said the ministry is working with Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, to ensure a safe return to campuses in September.

Many post-secondary classes have been offered online or through remote learning since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

"The switch to online learning has not been easy, but our staff and students have all done great work to respond to the pandemic and maintain the quality of our post-secondary system," he said.

Rowan Ley, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, said students are anxious to get back to campus, but the return has to be done safely.

Online classes have been problematic at some institutions, and students' mental health has been suffering during the pandemic, he said.

"We are glad to be getting back to campus. We do just want to ensure that we are safe, and that, more importantly, older professors and staff and our parents and families are safe," he said.

He said the first thing he wants to do back at the University of Alberta is go for a beer with his friends in a campus pub — a ritual he used to take for granted.

Some schools had already announced a return to in-person classes for the fall. 

The University of Alberta says on its website it plans to proceed with a mix of in-person, online and blended classes in fall 2021 and winter 2022.

"Due to public health restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic, we do not anticipate being able to offer in-person courses for all students," the university's website says.

Delivery formats of the university's fall classes are expected to be posted online April 26.

The University of Calgary said Thursday it is committed to keeping its community safe and will make an announcement about its fall plans shortly.

"The scope and scale of in-person classes this fall will depend on vaccination timelines and public health regulations around physical distancing and other considerations," the university said in a statement.

"We look forward to working with Alberta Health to better understand those timelines and regulations."

Nicolaides noted the province's immunization program aims to offer COVID-19 vaccines to every adult Albertan by the end of June. 

With files from Janet French