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'It's not right to wait': Post-secondary students petition to suspend in-person classes
VANCOUVER -- Several post-secondary institutions in the British Columbia are making the transition from face-to-face courses to online classes, but not all are making the switch.
On Friday, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and Trinity Western University all announced they are suspending in-person classes, after more than 15 institutions in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec had already made their announcements.
On Saturday evening, BCIT announced it would transition to online classes starting on Wednesday, March 18. Capilano University made a similar announcement Sunday morning, saying classes would be "paused" on Monday and Tuesday, with alternative forms of instruction beginning on Wednesday.
Even before the decision, some students were already avoiding campus.
"I went to class on Friday and a lot of people weren't there. So I think people took it into their hands even though it wasn't officially stated," said Jayden Cole, an SFU student.
Some students say cancelling in-person classes is the appropriate action, but there is a lot of confusion about what the next steps are.
"None of us know what's going on with our lectures, our finals. It's all uncertain for us," said Andreas Sinats, another SFU student. "It's very concerning because a large part of our grades come from our presentation, our final projections, which we're supposed to be doing in a lab."
Thousands of students at other institutions are pleading to officials to switch to online learning.
"Why isn’t Langara handling this situation the same way that other universities are?" questioned Langara College first-year nursing student Theo Galano-Tan.
Galano-Tan says the school has been putting out precautions but he'd like to see some actions.
"It's not right to wait for someone to have the case. It doesn't make sense to me," he said.
More than 2,500 people have signed an online petition to cancel in-person classes at Langara.
A spokesperson for Langara says there are plans underway to transition to online classes where possible.
Officials with Kwantlen did not respond to CTV News Vancouver's request for comment on Saturday.
On social media, BCIT wrote in part, "the provincial health officer has indicated our schools and our workplaces are operating safely."
In an online update, Kwantlen says it will be cancelling the spring convocation and any other events with 250 or more people but there are no plans to suspend classes.
"Dr. Henry specifically stated that it is not appropriate to close schools at this time," the update read. "KPU has increased cleaning at all campuses."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is advising against large gatherings, but says smaller classes can still be safe.
"You can stagger classes, have them at different times and have people sit separate from each other," she said. "I know universities are working on those strategies."
Remote lectures will begin next week and are scheduled to last until the end of the semester.