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Thousands sign petition to stop in-person learning at Douglas College during Omicron surge

Coquitlam and New Westminster students say they are worried about contracting the illness and missing class; administration says it's following the guidelines of the provincial health office
Students who signed a petition want the Burnaby and Coquitlam campuses of Douglas College to return to online learning.

Douglas College students at Coquitlam and New Westminster campuses are joining thousands of other B.C. post-secondary students in calling for a return to online classes.

As of this publication (Jan. 12), more than 2,000 people have signed an online petition at calling for virtual classes at Douglas College, stating classroom conditions are too cramped for students to safely social distance amid COVID-19.

In-person classes resumed Monday (Jan. 10) after a week-long delay.

Students say they don’t feel safe taking instruction in crowded classrooms during a time when the Omicron variant is spreading quickly.

“The Omicron variant is highly contagious therefore causing students to feel unsafe,” stated petition organizer Payal Bansal. 

“Students are concerned of potentially contracting the variant at the university as most classes are small, and contact with other students are close, meaning there is no room for students to social distance while learning.”

Regan Lal, spokesperson for Douglas College, stated in an email to the Tri-City News that the post-secondary understands that “some students have concerns.”

However, decisions have been made following the guidance of the Provincial Health Officer and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

“Douglas College, like other colleges and institutes in the sector, is following their guidance by returning to in-person instruction this semester,” stated Lal.

He added Douglas College is using best information available with “health and safety” as its “primary consideration.”

Petitions have also been launched by students at Langara College and BCIT, urging the schools to move online to protect students and staff from Omicron – deemed highly transmissible by public health officials.

Students fear their learning could be impacted by attending class in person.

“Those who will be infected will be forced to miss class; distance learning allows students who contract covid to continue learning,” stated Bansal.

Other students who commented agreed.

“I am not comfortable with classes in person when [COVID-19] cases are increasing,” stated Giuliano Vandon, in his reasons for signing the Douglas College petition.