HSAD goes back to school, virtually

By Sue Tiffin

Rather than a bustling campus with about 100 new full-time students joining the fall semester at the Haliburton campus of Fleming College, about 40 students are enrolled in three online programs being offered by the Haliburton School of Art + Design this semester, studying virtually while the school itself stays empty of students.

On March 13, the college announced that classes at all of its campuses, including Haliburton School of Art + Design would be cancelled as a precautionary measure against infection and spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Fleming College is offering all programs at its campuses – Sutherland, Frost, Cobourg and Haliburton – through online and alternate delivery, with the fall 2020 semester beginning Sept. 8.

While some post-secondary schools are offering a blend of online and in-person classes immediately, Fleming has opted for online classes only for the first seven weeks of the semester.

“From the onset of COVID-19, Fleming made the safety of our students, employees and communities our highest priority,” said Maureen Adamson, president, Fleming College. “Our approach may have been different than other institutions, but all decisions were made with safety as the first priority. The nature of the Haliburton programs, being in-person with a lot of physical material contact, and being very collaborative with people in close contact, made it difficult to continue the programs in a completely safe manner.”

Adamson said students and staff have been “fantastic,” with faculty and staff quickly adapting to the new context.

“We have had to make some very difficult decisions, but overall people understand why they were made and understand that we are committed to building back better and stronger than ever,” said Adamson.

In a back-to-school introductory post to all students on Fleming’s website, Adamson said: “While we are disappointed that we will not be seeing you in person, Fleming has been working hard to ensure our digital learning spaces are engaging and rewarding. Your safety, and the safety of our entire community remains our top priority, which is why we launched our Fleming Safe plan.”

At HSAD, diploma programs Visual and Creative Arts, Integrated Design and a Drawing and Painting certificate program are being offered online for the first seven weeks of the semester. In the second part of the semester beginning in November, the school plans to offer the last seven weeks of classes in a hybrid manner, with some online courses and some face-to-face time in studios, according to Angela Stukator, HSAD campus principal and dean.

“Fleming is committed to a Fleming Safe program, which will ensure students, staff and faculty are safe and adhering to very carefully prescribed protocols including physical distancing, hygiene and other related measures,” said Stukator. “The college has worked tirelessly to develop a plan – and a back-up plan – that is aligned with the Ministry of Health directives.”

According to the Fleming College website, program delivery is subject to change based on government and public health requirements.
“Our team has worked incredibly hard to adjust our programs, schedules and facilities as we continue to adapt to our new context,” said Adamson. “We look forward to welcoming students to our campuses at the appropriate time as we strive to support student success, while maintaining health and safety as our top priority.”

Each HSAD program currently being offered has reached capacity.
“Typically we offer a couple of other certificate programs, but we wanted to be cautious and careful with this first COVID cohort,” said Stukator. “We’ll see how the fall unfolds as we plan for the winter semester with a continued eye on Fleming Safe.”

Adamson said the vast majority of full-time or summer students at the Haliburton campus – over 90 per cent – are from outside the area, which she said creates a positive impact on economic development for Haliburton County, a “positive benefit for the community” that the college looks forward to growing.

“The changes we have made were made in the interest of safety,” Adamson told the Echo. “We will build back our enrolment, we will bring back our fantastic summer programming and we remain steadfastly committed to growing the Haliburton School of Art + Design as one of the true gems in the Ontario college system.”