McMaster and Mohawk are rethinking plans for January in light of Omicron variant

McMaster University says it still plans to have in-person learning for the winter 2022 semester, but because of a new COVID-19 variant, those classes will be virtual for the first week back in January. Mohawk is moving some classes online for the first month of the new year.

McMaster classes will be virtual for the first week back, Mohawk moving most online for January

McMaster University still plans to have in-person classes in January. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

McMaster University says it still plans to have in-person learning for the winter 2022 semester, but because of the new COVID-19 variant, those classes will be virtual for the first week back in January.

McMaster, like other universities, says it's talking about how to handle Omicron, a variant of COVID-19 that health officials say spreads faster and is quickly becoming the dominant strain. 

For now, McMaster says, the plan is for winter 2022 to be a largely in-person semester. But it's asking instructors to virtually teach the first week of classes starting Jan. 10, with in-person instruction beginning Jan. 17.

"We are making some short-term modifications in response to guidance from Ontario's chief medical officer," the university said in a release sent to students and faculty.

This comes post-secondary institutions hurry to figure out a plan for the coming term.

Officials from Brock University, Mohawk College and Niagara College told CBC News this week that they're having discussions about it.

Mohawk moves some learning online

In a memo to Mohawk students sent Wednesday, the college's president, Ron McKerlie, announced all learning required to take place in-person will still happen in the classroom until Jan. 30. But other classes, which were expected to happen in-person, will now be held virtually during the first month of the new year.

All in-person events have been cancelled until the end of January or moved online. Guests will not be allowed on campus throughout the month unless their visit supports academic programming, according to the memo.

McKerlie wrote that the changes are about keeping students safe until more is known about the Omicron variant.

"We know that many students and employees will be disappointed with this announcement," he stated. "Our goal remains to bring students back to campus for in-person learning, and we continue to work towards this goal."

Some schools cancel exams

Some Canadian universities, like the University of Victoria and Queen's University in Kingston, have cancelled all in-person exams due to concerns of rising case counts.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, meanwhile, says this semester's exams will be a combination of in-person and online. 

Christine Elliott, Ontario's minister of health, called Omicron "a new opponent" in an announcement Wednesday.

"Evidence suggests it's faster, more transmissible and it's changing the trajectory of the pandemic in jurisdictions around the world," she said.

With files from Jasmine Kabatay


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