U of Winnipeg moving to remote learning for most classes amid concern about Omicron spread

The University of Winnipeg is going back to virtual learning for most of its classes in the new year, the post-secondary institution said in a news release Thursday.
A puddle forms next to snow banks on a university campus.
The University of Winnipeg is shifting back to remote learning for the start of its upcoming winter term. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The University of Winnipeg is going back to virtual learning for most of its classes in the new year due to rising concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant, the post-secondary institution said in a news release Thursday.

Most classes will be delivered remotely until the February reading week, the university said.

That time frame will be re-examined and updates will be communicated to the university community, including students, by the end of January.

Students, faculty and staff who are able to work remotely are being asked to do so until the end of the fall semester, but the current fall term exam schedule will continue as planned, according to the new release.

Some courses and labs will still be delivered in person in the new year if that's deemed necessary, the university said. 

Students are asked to check the online WebAdvisor registration system for information about delivery modes, which will be updated as that information is available.

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Administration made the decision, following discussion with the university's faculty association, to exercise caution in order to protect students, faculty and staff during the fourth wave of the pandemic in Manitoba, the release said.

"We understand that these measures will cause disruption and we share your frustration with the ongoing public health situation. We will work closely with our communities to address complications that arise from this pivot," Dr. James Currie, University of Winnipeg interim president and vice-chancellor, said in the statement.

"This information is being communicated quickly to provide as much notice as possible for students, faculty, and staff to adjust to this change."

Six COVID-19 cases stemming from the Omicron variant have been identified in Manitoba so far, officials said Wednesday.

Community recreation services and athletics at the downtown Winnipeg university will continue to operate following the province's current public health orders. 

The University of Winnipeg Collegiate high school program is not affected by the changes and will continue with in-person learning for the time being.

Other post-secondary institutions

No other post-secondary institutions in Manitoba have yet to make a similar announcement.

Red River College Polytechnic is "actively reviewing our approach to determine what measures or steps we may take to continue delivering our programs safely for the upcoming winter 2022 term," a spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.

Red River is expected to update its college community Friday regarding the ongoing response to the evolving fourth wave of the pandemic.

University College of the North isn't following the University of Winnipeg's lead when it comes to classes for its winter term — at least not yet.

"A decision as to whether to change UCN's plan for the winter term has not been made," Dan Smith, UCN vice-president, academic and research, said in an email to CBC News.

"UCN is continuing to monitor the situation, including paying close attention to guidance and direction from public health."

A spokesperson for Brandon University said a shift to remote learning is "under active discussion," but its plans for the winter term likely won't be shared with the campus community until Monday.

Canadian Mennonite University is not announcing any changes at this time, with its pandemic response and recovery committee continuing to monitor the situation, an email to CBC News said. 

Samantha Groenendijk, the vice-president of external relations at Providence University College, said they have no changes in store for their winter 2022 semester, but their institutional COVID-19 response team is continuing to monitor the situation.

CBC reached out to the University of Manitoba, Brandon University, Assiniboine Community College, Université de Saint-Boniface and the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology for comment but did not immediately hear back from them.