“We’re asking for the college to be more proactive,” says full-time student Luna Morris. “The Omicron variant is spreading and a lot of us are very concerned.”
Morris adds students are shoulder to shoulder in many classes and it seems many may be going to school sick.
“People have been away on international travel, and there were at least two positive COVID-19 cases in the nursing program after the holiday break.”
The petition is also asking the college to not just follow public health orders from the province, but also recommendations from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety for post-secondary schools such as: offering virtual learning to limit the number of people in a classroom, online exams and remote access to course materials and instructors.
“We’ve been trying to keep our COVID-19 page up to date based on the guidance from public health,” says Tyler Finley, manager of marketing and communications for Okanagan College.
“In the case of Omicron, public health is telling us that they’re still seeing transmission occurring in places like households. Transmission in educational settings on post-secondary campuses continues to be uncommon just because there are so many layers of protection in place.”
The college’s COVID-19 webpage contains its mask mandate, communicable disease plan, personal health checks, and other items.
Morris points out the college has canceled campus events for January.
“If those events are not deemed safe, then why can’t some classes be moved online?”
Finley says the guidance from public health is that unstructured, social settings cannot be controlled.
“Obviously in that context, you cannot control people’s mask-wearing, behaviour, and things of that nature, whereas in the classroom those things are manageable.”
Finley adds the most critical thing is that every member of the OC community, students, staff, and visitors, are told to stay home if they are sick.
Morris agrees that students are being urged to not go to class if they are feeling unwell.
“But there is a lot of pressure on students from teachers not to fall behind in their studies,” she says.
Finley says the physical and mental of students is a top priority for Okanagan College.
“Being a student is stressful at the best of times, and the pandemic just adds another layer to that. There are mental health and other supports available.”
Finley also encourages students, staff, and visitors to check the COVID-19 page on the Okanagan College website for updates.