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Laurentian students getting extended winter break after Senate approves motion

Longer winter break allows students to quarantine, gives profs more time to prepare remote classes
Laurentian University. (File)

Laurentian University will be extending its winter break by one week, with students returning to class Jan. 11 instead of Jan. 4. 

A motion was approved by Laurentian’s Senate on Nov. 17 that extends the winter break and moves other winter semester dates forward by a week.

This comes as the Ontario government has decided against an extended winter break for elementary and secondary students.

Laurentian confirmed in an email to Nov. 18 that the Senate's motion will be implemented.

"This change has been made with students, faculty, and staff at the centre of considerations," said Laurentian president Robert Haché in a message that was to be shared with the community Wednesday.

"While we have not yet determined the many procedural changes involved with this decision, we will be communicating the details as they are resolved. In particular, there will be follow up with academic programs that may have specific requirements that might otherwise be impacted by this shift in timing."

The motion was put forward by Students’ General Association president Eric Chappell, and is as follows: That “Laurentian University delay the start of the new term from Jan. 4, 2021 to Jan. 11, 2021, that the last day of classes will be moved from April 1 to April 9, that the first day of exams be moved from April 6 to April 10, and that any other deadlines associated with these changes be adjusted accordingly. The exam session will end on Friday, April 30. Should an academic unit/program wish to seek an exemption from this, they will need the approval of their respective dean by Nov. 25.”

A longer winter break will give students travelling back and forth between Sudbury and their home communities for the holidays more time to quarantine, as appropriate, said Chappell, in an interview with Wednesday morning.

It will also allow for more time for symptoms to become apparent if they are, unfortunately, infected with COVID-19 at holiday functions.

In terms of international students who wish to travel to Canada to start the second semester at Laurentian, they face a mandatory two-week quarantine when they enter the country. 

The extended break means they won’t have to travel to Canada during the busy pre-Christmas period when other students are travelling back to their home communities.

“And the other thing is, we looked at our provincial counterparts, and there’s a lot of schools that had already made this decision, and I’m expecting to see more,” Chappell said. “I think it’s a good idea. It’s where I think the majority of schools will land in the province.”

Laurentian University Faculty Association secretary-general Jean-Charles Cachon said in an email to that there is a variety of opinions among faculty members about delaying the winter term.

That being said, Cachon said with the fall exam period ending Dec. 23, it’s “almost impossible” for faculty to mark exams and have courses ready for alternate delivery 11 days later, on Jan. 4. 

Due to the pandemic, the vast majority of Laurentian classes are being delivered remotely both this semester and next semester. 

“There's only so much that can be done during what's supposed to be a ‘Holy Days’ recess,” Cachon said in the email.

“Some programs might still have to resume on Jan. 4 if students have placements with hospitals or with companies that resume that week. Otherwise, many faculty members are quite tired and will welcome this extra week for class preparation.”

The new world of post-secondary education during COVID-19 has been “rough” for students, said Chappell. A Laurentian professor has also spoken out about how difficult the shift to remote delivery has been.

“It’s an adapting world,” said the student leader. “There’s been lots of stress and change. (Students are) being resilient. But I really think this (extended holiday) break is going to be good for them.”