Fleming College has cancelled all of its summer programming at the Haliburton School of Art and Design due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The college announced the move April 8, halting more than 300 weeklong and weekend courses at the school which run between May and September every year.

College vice president of academic experience Tom Phillips said based on the information available, it is unlikely it would be possible to run the handson art courses in the summer.

“The Haliburton summer school is very much face-to-face, very much hands-on, the nature of it,” Phillips said. “Everything in the world going on is a clear indication that … being face-to-face in a condensed environment in say, June, July, August, is very unlikely.”

Torontonian Rhoda Payne has attended Fleming’s summer school for more than 14 years and taught a course about upscaling art last summer. She said the cancellation was understandable, but it hurt.

“Still devastating for everyone I’ve spoken to,” Payne said, adding she was looking forward to teaching for her second year. “I’m so disappointed that I won’t get to do that again.”

Like many post-secondary institutions, Fleming has had to adapt to online and alternative learning to finish its winter and spring semesters. Though nothing has been announced for summer, Phillips said there would be some exploration of alternatives.

“We are still looking at possibilities of something online,” Phillips said. “We’re doing that across all our programs. We’re looking at ways we can connect people without having face-to-face contact. We are exploring that, it’s just a matter of finding what could be done and then devoting some resources to it.”

Payne said it would make sense to try out classes through online meeting software like Zoom.

“I’m becoming comfortable with Zoom, as I’m sure most people are. I think it’s entirely possible that we could teach and take courses and get critiques and do all kinds of things with technology,” Payne said. “It’d be great to give it a shot.”

Phillips said staff are preparing different delivery scenarios for the fall semester, including the possibility of returning to face-to-face learning.

“We’re developing contingency plans and things in place if that were not true. We’re convinced that there will be face-to-face contact in the fall at some point. The probability of that is very high,” he said.

Payne said the loss of summer programming is significant for the Haliburton township.

“I’m heartbroken for the town of Haliburton to not have the masses of people that come into the school in the summer,” Payne said. “It helps, I’m sure, the economy and it’s just a wonderful environment. It’s heartbreaking.”

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