Eastern Ontario colleges and universities announce return dates for in-person learning

As Ontario announces the easing of restrictions, colleges and universities in the region are confirming when students can resume in-person learning.

The University of Ottawa will be the first in the National Capital Region to welcome back all students, with a return date set for January 31. The resumption of in-class activities at Carleton University is scheduled for February 7. Queen’s University at Kingston will wait until February 28 before full in-person academics resume.

For Algonquin College students in Ottawa, Pembroke and Perth, the plan is not so clear. Keltie Jones, dean of Algonquin College’s Pembroke campus, said there are plans to consider a return to class after Algonquin’s winter break in late February.

“We’ll be looking at what some of those options will be to bring some of those more academic classes back to campus after our winter break,” Jones told CTV New Ottawa.

Algonquin College’s Pembroke campus is unique in that about two-thirds of the college’s 900 students still take in-person classes to some degree, according to Jones. This is due to the specifically practical programs offered in the valley, such as carpentry and arboriculture.

But Samuel Beehler, a student in the Outdoor Adventure Naturalists program, says he’s only taken virtual classes since returning this semester.

“We’re doing wilderness first aid right now,” says Beehler. “And that’s something where you’re usually in person and working with models so you can get a sense of how the human body works. And you can’t do that virtually.”

With no date set for Algonquin College, Beehler hopes that at least some of his time at college will be spent in a classroom.

“I hope we can access a full classroom – not even without restrictions – just at least in the classroom rather than in your home in front of a computer screen.”

“I think the most important thing is that we maintain our flexibility, we maintain our adaptability,” Jones says of the plan to bring students back to campus. “And we keep the safety and learning conditions of our learners in mind in everything we do.”

Originally from Ottawa, Beehler lives in student housing a few hundred meters from the school. He didn’t stop until Thursday to pick up a book for class.

“It’s my time at college and I can guarantee you I won’t be coming back here and the fact that I’m being deprived of the college experience of being there is heartbreaking.”