BARRIE, ONT. -- The vast majority of college and university students in Simcoe County will be learning from home this fall.

Georgian College confirmed that roughly 70 per cent, or 6,000 of its students, will learn virtually, along with the nearly 1,500 Lakehead University students in Orillia.

Georgian College believes about 3,000 students will be returning to class next month.

"They'll see active screening at the doors. They'll see enhanced cleaning protocols, lab protocols, mandatory face coverings within the buildings," said Georgian College Academics VP Kevin Weaver.

College preps for return

"They need to follow the protocols. The rules when they're on campus, when they're in the labs, when they're in the halls, and we're confident that our protocols do provide a healthy and safe environment and allow them to complete their learning," Weaver added.

Kira Benoot said when the pandemic hit, being forced to learn online was a difficult shift for many students.

"It was definitely an adjustment, and it was hard to get thrown into it," said Benoot, who will study almost exclusively online come September. "Like 99 per cent online with like six hours a week in the lab."

Life on campus this fall will not look or feel the same, with food and beverage services closed, class sizes reduced, and students asked to show up right before class and leave promptly afterward.

Screening measures include an app that allows the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to notify students should they come in close contact with or be exposed to the virus.

"We are committed. Our faculty and staff have done an outstanding job to deliver the same quality Georgian is known for," Weaver said.

The college estimates a 25 per cent drop in registration, the majority of whom are international students.

For the 1,500 staff, faculty and students at Lakehead University in Orillia, programs will be largely online, starting September 8.

Lakehead University

"The remaining will be in some form of hybrid, blended-model, meaning that for those students that need to do more hands-on, lab-directed courses there will be on-site, on-campus protocol in place to ensure students can return to our Lakehead Orillia campus in a safe environment for their studies," said Dean Jobin-Bevans, Lakehead University Orillia Campus principal.

"We want to guarantee that safety of our faculty, staff, and, of course, our students is utmost importance at Lakehead University," concluded Jobin-Bevans.

The fall semester, including orientation, begins at Georgian College on September 14.