THE University of Manitoba is planning a phased-in reopening of its campus to students and staff, starting this fall, in anticipation of a “full return” to face-to-face operations in early 2022.

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THE University of Manitoba is planning a phased-in reopening of its campus to students and staff, starting this fall, in anticipation of a "full return" to face-to-face operations in early 2022.

"This past year has been hard on all of us and we are eager to see the end of it. Today, I am writing with cautious optimism," U of M president Michael Benarroch said in a community update published Wednesday.

"In light of current public health advice and expectations on the vaccine rollout, we are planning to resume more in-person instruction this fall."

In September, classes with a maximum of 20 students can proceed with in-person instruction should spaces be able to accommodate them, and labs will run with either 25 participants or at the public health capacity limit, whichever is smaller.

Large lectures will continue with remote delivery — as has been the case since senior administration first asked instructors to create alternative teaching plans for all courses on March 13, 2020, amid the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benarroch said departments can plan to allow for an increase in the percentage of staff who can go on the campus, up to a maximum of 40 per cent, but work that can continue remotely is expected to do so for the foreseeable future.

As the vaccination rollout gets underway and public health orders change, the university will consider reopening both course-related and non-instructional activities, he added.

Despite uncertainty around when students will be in packed lecture halls again, the president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union said there is "one comforting thing" about the prospect of entering a second consecutive year of remote learning.

"These circumstances are no longer unprecedented and with that behind, I’m confident the university administration will use that to their advantage and ensure no student falls through the cracks this time around," said Jelynn Dela Cruz, who plans to graduate in spring 2022.

Dela Cruz said the students union expects instructors will be flexible with delivery methods, even if all classes can resume in person next fall, since some students may not feel comfortable returning to campus.

Only a small number of on-site research activities and in-person courses that require hands-on delivery have been approved this year.

Visitors are required to wear a three-ply disposable or reusable mask while on campus grounds.

There have been at least 65 positive COVID-19 cases at U of M since the start of the academic year.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.