TRU president hopeful for partial return to pre-pandemic normal at Kamloops campus this fall | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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TRU president hopeful for partial return to pre-pandemic normal at Kamloops campus this fall

Image Credit: Thompson Rivers University
March 11, 2021 - 2:30 PM

With the gears in motion for a return to on-campus learning at B.C. universities this fall, the president of Thompson Rivers University is hoping for at least a partial return towards pre-pandemic times.

University officials were notified by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry of the return to in person classes in a letter earlier this week.

"It feels like the campus is empty. And I look forward to experiencing that buzz and energy and having people around... I'm certainly hoping there will be socializing and doing activities on campus as well," TRU president Dr. Brett Fairbairn said.

Fairbairn said the most immediate concern is to touch base with students, with an eye on helping their return to on-campus classes go smoothly. Both domestic and international groups of students are engrossed in post-secondary decision making by March.

READ MORE: B.C.'s universities to start preparing for a return to in-person education this fall

He said the next important goal is to examine how to exactly manage courses and activities come fall, something faculty and staff are already engaged in doing, and he's hoping to hear back on that subject within the next month. Their planning will include a collaborative approach on changes to pandemic guidelines.

Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang said her ministry is working with health and safety experts, student groups, labour, Indigenous partners and post-secondary institutions to develop guidelines in the coming weeks for a return to campus. She said institutions can further tailor those guidelines to suit their specific requirements.

"We'll be working together with other universities and health authorities on what exactly the new (COVID-19) guidelines (for the fall) are," Fairbairn said. "I won't be surprised if we keep wearing masks for a while, even after the vaccine. Maybe we'll have thinned numbers in some indoor spaces. We will follow the advice of experts."

Fairbairn said most  of the university's students, faculty and staff have been working remotely since last March, and he's urging prospective and enrolled students to reach out to the university to lay groundwork for their education, whether online or in person.

"Before the pandemic, if you go by head count, half of the students were online. Half were in person and we'll still be a mixed institution after we have recovered from the pandemic," he said.

"Every person's circumstances are unique. I've certainly heard from students who love remote learning. It really works well for them because of their personal situation, their jobs or location and (attending class) in person isn't such a big deal... and I've heard from other students that it's absolutely critical, especially first year students who are really looking for that social dimension to help them succeed."

— With files from The Canadian Press

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