Dozens of Lakehead University students moved back to the Orillia campus Thursday morning ahead of next Tuesday’s first day of school.
This year’s academic year will see students return to the classroom for the first time since 2019 as almost all programs moved to a virtual format during the pandemic.
Lakehead Orillia campus principal Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans said he is "super excited" to have students back on campus this fall.
“We’ve missed them so much over the past academic year. We are excited to have life back on our campus again as we start a new academic year at Lakehead Orillia," said Jobin-Bevans.
He says students will still have the choice to learn on campus or at home using a virtual format.
“There will be a combination of face-to-face in-class learning, as well as remote learning. But I sense that our students want to be back in class when those options are available to them,” he said.
When it comes to extra-curricular activities, Jobin-Bevans says everything will be a go if it’s permitted by health regulations.
“We do have a fitness room which is new to our campus for students who want to maintain some level of fitness and wellbeing, which is something we are excited about for our students,” he said.
“Things might take a little bit of an adjustment, and Lakehead University’s campus life is probably not going to be any more unusual than what normal life has been over the past year. I expect students will adjust and I’m optimistic that we will get back to this new normal in a short time.”
Lynn Fortney, Lakehead's residence and conference services manager, said she is also excited to see students back on campus.
“We are excited. It’s a little surreal as we have quadrupled the number of students living in our residence this year compared to last. Things are starting to feel somewhat normal,” she said.
Last year only 34 students lived on campus. This year there will be 130 students in residence.
“We are expecting to receive even more applications once the flight bans are lifted,” Fortney said.
To live on residence all students will have to be fully vaccinated, must follow social distancing measures and masks must be worn in common spaces; the dining room will be following all public health guidelines.
“It’s still an enjoyable experience for the students,” Fortney said.
“We will be having lots of outdoor and virtual activities, and by the looks on the students' faces as they come in the door, they are really excited for this year," said Fortney.
First-year criminology student AJ Curnew, of Bracebridge, moved into residence Thursday morning. He says he is confident about the year ahead thanks to the COVID protocols put in place by the school.
“The way Lakehead is handling things with requiring vaccinations is making me feel confident. Plus, it’s my decision to live here on residence and the staff here are making me feel comfortable,” he said.
Curnew is excited for the academic year ahead, but he doesn’t believe things will be back to the way they might have been pre-pandemic.
“Half of the students who would normally be here have been cut down, so with fewer people and more social distancing it will be different, but still better than nothing,” he said.
Concurrent education student Katherine Dominy says she feels more safe on campus in Orillia than she does back at home in Toronto.
“With all the protocols and being vaccinated, I feel pretty safe,” she said.
Last year, Dominy attended Ryerson University online, but she is excited to finally get back into a classroom.
“I think it will be different, but this will be a better experience than I had last year,” she said.
Second-year Master of Education student Alexander Arcella spent most of his summer playing soccer back home in Woodbridge. Arcella is hopeful that COVID protocols allow him to keep his soccer skills sharp while living on campus.
“I will be looking for sports teams and recreation. I’d like to try out for the team here depending on what my schedule looks like,” he said.
“Playing throughout the summer there was a lot of physical distancing measures that were followed, and I think it’s one of the more normal activities we can do without complications," he said Thursday.
Arcella says recreational sports and activities are important to students - especially during the pandemic.
”For both mental and physical health it’s important to get out, socialize, exercise, and have that outlet to keep your mind straight,” he said.