Western University cancels classes over COVID-19 concerns

Western University. (File Photo by Victoria Sartor, BlackburnNews.com)

As concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to grow, one of London’s post-secondary institutions is cancelling all classes.

Western University announced Thursday evening that all classes from Friday up-to and including March 17 have been cancelled to give instructors and academic support staff enough time to transition course material online. Starting March 18, all classes will be conducted online for the remainder of the semester. Any exams scheduled before March 18 will be rescheduled.

“We recognize that in some instances, portions of classes are already taught in a blended format. In other courses, this will require a substantial shift. Help will be available with that shift. We don’t have experience in transitioning at such a scale, and so we will all need to be patient with each other as we do so,” said Alan Shepard, the president and vice-chancellor at Western, in a statement.

While many courses are moving online, clinical placements will continue in their current model.  As well, Western’s residences, libraries, recreation centres, food services and health services will all remain open and operational.

Shepard said these steps are being taken at the university “out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to reduce risk.”

“We know these decisions will cause some disruption, and we apologize for that. Over its 140 plus years, Western has faced several moments of adversity, but we have not experienced anything quite like this before,” he said. “We’re in uncharted territory.

Shepard added that students who wish to go home to study remotely can do so, and any student facing stress and uncertainty over the current situation is encouraged to seek out services and programs at the university that will provide support.  Any student who is ill is asked to stay home.

“We all look forward to the day when we can resume our regular activities. Meanwhile, it is our resolve in such an extraordinary situation that will make us an even stronger university,” said Shepherd.

The university is currently working on a contingency plan for final exams, which will be shared in the coming days.