By Joseph Quigley

Haliburton School of Art and Design students are concerned about their education after Fleming College announced it would shift to online learning for the semester due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The college announced the change March 13 as a measure for public safety. Classes at all Fleming campuses are suspended until March 17, after which they will switch to online and alternative learning for the remaining five weeks of the winter term. Campuses and schools will remain open but Fleming is encouraging students to study from home if possible.

What exactly that means for hands-on courses in Haliburton is not yet clear. Blacksmithing student Josiah Fletcher said his class was disappointed and frustrated by the announcement.

“It sucks. A lot,” he said, adding having time in the classroom is important. “I really just hope we’re able to get back in it, even if they just compress the school schedule. As long as we’re just able to keep working.”

Dean Angela Stukator addressed students after classes were suspended at noon March 13. She said staff are planning for how courses will continue March 18 and will communicate regularly.

“It’s really important that you get through the next five weeks and you get your diploma. So please don’t stop working,” Stukator told students. “You will be well taken care of by your teachers and the staff here.”

Several students expressed skepticism about how well online learning would work going forward.

“Online doesn’t do it for me at all. I just can’t do it. My brain doesn’t work that way,” integrated design student Liam McCloud said.

“Especially for hands-on courses, it makes no sense. It’s just wasting people’s time and money,” digital image design student Jacob Butler said. “You can’t do glass blowing online, you can’t do jewelry online. I’ts pointless.”

Stukator said staff are working to accommodate students while maintaining precautions. She listed possible measures including phone conversations, one-on-one meetings, or having smaller groups of students cycle through the workshop space at the school.

“All of these things are possibilities,” she said. “What’s so difficult right now is we don’t have answers to everybody’s questions.”

Fletcher said he is encouraged by the communication of Haliburton’s school staff.

“Some of the stuff, they don’t know, that’s kind of nice, too, because that means we’re all in this together,” he said.

Stukator noted Haliburton is a small and relatively isolated campus – “its own little world” – which could affect what happens going forward compared to larger schools.

“You will not be lost in the shuffle,” she said. “This place is small; we all know each other. You will not get lost, I promise you.”

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