Education students concerned about return to in-person learning

‘Increasing accessibility hurts no one’ 

Teacher candidates express need to improve COVID-19 safety protocols.
Some students in the Faculty of Education have recently expressed concerns with the return to in-person lectures for certain courses, following a return from fall semester practicum placements. 
Students allege lecture material is only available in-person and not online for Winter 2022, a possible concern due to recent exposures to COVID-19.  
Brittany Lazar, BEd ‘22, is currently in isolation after being exposed to COVID-19 in her practicum classroom. 
Lazar said she will be choosing not to go to class in-person so if she does test positive other students aren’t impacted. 
“To me, if I have to get tested if I was exposed, that should be a part of the SeQure test. I shouldn’t be allowed to go to a 400-person lecture if I was waiting for a [COVID] test,” Lazar said in an interview with The Journal.
Jessica Grennan, ConEd ’22, told The Journal that the Faculty of Education previously offered online classes before switching to an in-person model. 
“In August, all courses were online and then in September, all of our courses were also all online. This was excluding courses with 25 or fewer students,” Grennan said. 
“We went on practicum for seven weeks, and now that we are back, we are being told that these 400-person lectures are now in-person. One of these lectures is PROF 170, which does not have an online alternative.” 
Grennan said Faculty of Education students were placed across Ontario and some are uncomfortable with being back in-person at Queen’s.
“There is no alternative if you are not comfortable attending,” Grennan said. 
“We have expressed [our concerns] to the Associate Dean and it feels like we are being told to swallow our discomfort instead of being provided reasonable alternatives.” 
Mark Green, Vice-Principal (Academic), said Queen’s is following public health guidelines, including meeting with local public health officials. 
“University leadership continues to meet weekly with local public health experts to monitor community case counts [...] Our efforts are working; to date, KFL&A Public Health has not found evidence of transmission on-campus,” Green wrote in an email to The Journal.
Green said policies and provisions have been instituted to ensure students are treated with compassion.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the university has exercised flexibility and compassion as we navigate teaching and learning during the pandemic,” Green said. 
“As outlined in the Fall 2021 Protocols for In-Person Classes, if a student needs to miss a class or an academic requirement due to COVID-19 illness, COVID-19 symptoms or a self-isolation requirement from Public Health, academic consideration will be granted,” he said.
Lazar added that a major concern about the policy in question is many students have people in their households with underlying health conditions, and the risk of getting COVID-19 is high for them. 
“I have a friend who is immunocompromised. Do you just risk everything? It’s an accessibility concern,”  Lazar said. 
Grennan said the crux of the matter is increasing accessibility for everyone—which can start to happen if large lectures are once again offered online.
“Increasing accessibility hurts no one. There is not a single situation where making a lecture available online hurts a single student,” Grennan said.  

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