Western is delaying the start of the winter term and moving classes online as the university continues to take safety precautions in light of increasing concerns around COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.
Following consultations with health experts and campus leaders, and with the approval of Western’s Senate, Western and its affiliated university colleges Brescia, Huron and King’s, have announced the winter term will begin Jan. 10, and online classes will be in place until Jan. 31. The extended break will allow faculty and staff to shift classes to virtual platforms and ensure students can have the best online learning experience as possible.
“We know this is hard,” said Western president Alan Shepard. “The shift back to online learning, if only for a few weeks, is not our ideal scenario, but we hope this preemptive measure sets us up for success in seeing out the academic year.”
The university will remain closed for the holidays one day longer than originally planned, reopening Jan. 4.
Due to the nature of their work, certain professional programs and clinical learning in health sciences and medicine will resume in-person for the winter term on Jan. 4. Libraries will also reopen on Jan. 4, and some research activities will continue to be conducted on campus.
Students in residence are being asked to delay their return to campus, where possible, until in-person classes resume on Jan. 31.
Rising COVID-19 infections in recent weeks and the continued threat of the Omicron variant – believed to be more infectious than its Delta predecessor – have led government and public health officials across Canada to adopt new measures to curb the spread of the virus heading into the holidays.
Provincial governments are taking measures to accelerate vaccinations and increasing access to booster shots, in a bid to increase the public’s protection against Omicron.
Last week, the Middlesex-London Health Unit announced new public health recommendations to reduce transmission, including limiting indoor, social gatherings to 10 people, and advising individuals to work remotely, where possible.
Shepard encouraged members of the Western community to heed public health advice and exercise caution during the winter break. “Please consider keeping your gatherings small to minimize the impact to our community and the one you may be returning home to. We want everyone in the community – including their loved ones – to remain safe and healthy.”