Christian campuses faring well so far


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SO far, so good. That’s the situation at three Manitoba Christian universities and colleges after almost two weeks of in-person classes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/09/2020 (910 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SO far, so good. That’s the situation at three Manitoba Christian universities and colleges after almost two weeks of in-person classes.

The Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Providence University College in Otterburne and Steinbach Bible College invited students back to campus for the 2020-21 academic year in addition to offering online classes.

Booth University College in Winnipeg decided to offer only online instruction.

At CMU, “it’s been a really positive start,” said Terry Schellenberg, vice-president external.

Enrolment is down 1.9 per cent, with 617 students at its Shaftesbury Boulevard campus. There are 152 students living in on-campus apartments and dormitories in single-occupant rooms.

While all classes are held in-person, including some that are being conducted outdoors as long as the weather holds, about eight per cent of students have elected to attend classes online only.

“I am struck by how badly students wanted to be back in classes,” Schellenberg said. “There is a real yearning for connection.”

There has been “good buy-in for following safety protocols” by students, he said, noting that masks are mandatory in public spaces on campus.

“I’ve yet to see a student not wearing a mask,” he said.

The campus is closed to the public; the only places they can go are the Folio café and bookstore. There is no public access to the library.

While having taken every precaution on campus, he acknowledges the school can’t control what students do off campus.

At the same time, “I sense a real respect and sensitivity for the moment we are in from students,” he said.

With 445 students in undergraduate and seminary programs, enrolment at Providence University College is up slightly over last year, said Cameron McKenzie, vice-president and provost.

About 20 per cent of undergraduates have chosen online classes only, while about 70 per cent of seminary students are doing the same. There are 115 students in residence in single-occupancy rooms.

Masks are mandatory in public spaces, and students were asked to sign an agreement to follow health and safety guidelines.

“Student behaviour has been all positive so far,” he said, adding “we have promoted (the safety protocols) as caring for one another. By and large, students are doing that.”

The public is allowed on campus, but visitors have to register and answer questions about their health and exposure to the virus.

Rob Reimer, president of SBC, also feels positive.

“Considering the doom and gloom forecast for schools back in April and May, we feel very fortunate,” he said.

Enrolment at the school is up a bit from last year, with 110 students taking classes. One of the drivers for the better-than-expected numbers is the high number of returning students — the most Reimer has seen in his 14 years at the college.

“Many came back because they didn’t like the way the year ended last year, with the sudden closing,” he said. “They want to finish well what they started.”

Fifty-seven students are in residence, almost all in single rooms.

SBC is offering a hybrid model; all classes can be live-streamed or viewed later.

As at the other schools, masks are mandatory in all public areas. Students have been asked to abide by safety and health protocols. “So far, there have been no issues,” Reimer said.

Over at Booth, “I think we made the right decision to go virtual,” said Michael Boyce, vice-president academic and dean.

Enrolment is down seven per cent, he said, with a total of 240 students.

Faculty members have been given freedom to teach their classes from home or at the downtown campus; some professors “prefer the classroom because they like the feel of it,” Boyce said.

There are few students in residence and everyone who is on campus must wear a mask in public places.

Leaders at all four schools stressed that while things are going well, that could change.

“It is simply way too early to make any judgments about how this will go,” said Schellenberg. “There are simply way too many changing variables, externally and internally, to predict with confidence whether a good start will really extend itself.”

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John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.


Updated on Monday, September 21, 2020 12:16 PM CDT: Fixes headline

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