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St. F.X. steps closer to student return in September

St.FX encouraged any student living on campus to return home if they were able to. All those who could not are now living in one of three different apartment-style residence buildings.
The motions carried by the senate would see classes resume Sept. 14 and continue through a fall study break. - Brendan Ahern / File
ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

St. Francis Xavier University’s senate paved the way Thursday for an on-campus fall semester.

“That senate endorses a mixed delivery model for the 2020-21 academic year,” reads a motion from interim university president Kevin Wamsley that was carried by the senate.

“St. F.X. courses will occur in virtual, face-to-face/on-campus, or blended format, using either synchronous or asynchronous delivery, subject to provincial health and safety regulations.”

The motions carried by the senate would see classes resume Sept. 14 and continue through a fall study break. The requirement that 40 per cent of grades be determined by supervised exams will be eliminated for the 2020/21 school year.

As well they make it a “major offense” to violate the school’s pandemic preparedness plan or any local, provincial or federal legislation related to Covid-19.

The senate’s motions are subject to approval by the university’s board of governors. A spokesperson for the school’s administration predicted a formal announcement of the school’s plans for September will come Friday.

“The province was clear that the universities have autonomy over this decision so the municipalities that have universities will have to deal with their decisions,” said Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher on Thursday.

“Whatever they decide,it will have a humongous effect on the Town of Antigonish and our sister municipality the county. If the students don’t come back the economy will feel a difference. We already felt it when St. F.X. didn’t have a graduation. If they decide to come back and have face-to-face classes we run the risk of maybe bringing Covid-19 into the community.”

With an enrollment of 3,816 full time students in a town of about 4,300 residents, in deciding on its fall semester St. F.X. is not just making a decision for itself but also for a community with three nursing homes, a regional hospital and an aging population.

Boucher said her council was consulted by the university as it worked toward a decision for the fall semester.

She also called the potential threat to the health of the town's residents who have compromised immune systems of having thousands of young students return a "major concern."

In the 2018/19 school year 37 per cent of St.F.X.'s students came from outside Atlantic Canada.

Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s and Cape Breton universities have all announced that they won’t be hosting on campus undergraduate courses this fall – choosing instead to offer programs online. Dal will host students for medicine, dentistry and veterinarian technology programs where industry accreditation is reliant upon on-campus instruction.

Acadia University, meanwhile, has announced it will host students in the fall for a hybrid of in-person and online instruction that will begin Sept. 21.

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