WINNIPEG -- Students at the University of Manitoba will continue with a remote-learning model during the 2021 winter semester.

According to a statement from the school’s president and vice chancellor Michael Benarroch, the university made the decision as early as possible so students could plan the rest of their academic year accordingly.

Benarroch noted that though circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic could change, it’s “the most prudent course of action” for the school to continue with remote learning,

“Over the course of my first three months as president, I have seen examples of innovation in teaching and operations that have impressed me deeply and reminded me of the resiliency and flexibility, the creativity and dedication, of our community,” he said.

Benarroch said staff at the university have adapted to the online teaching format, noting the creation of UM Commons, an online platform for students to discover events, connect with staff, and join peer tutor programs and student communities.

In the statement, Bennarroch assured students that the school is working to ensure their success.

“We want this year to be special for you – in positive ways, so that as you continue your studies or move into the professional world, you feel thoroughly prepared for what lies ahead,” he said.

The statement noted that the majority of classes will be delivered remotely, with the exception of a small number of in-person classes.

The University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) said it supports the school’s decision to hold the winter term online.

“As we prepare for another semester online, we remain firm in our efforts to assist students who are displaced by COVID-19. From accessible course materials to adequate mental health supports, this pandemic is only highlighting the areas within post-secondary which require the most progress,” said UMSU president Jelynn Dela Cruz in a news release.

“As stewards for a better socio-economic future in Manitoba, this is the time where our actions will matter the most.”

The UMSU noted in light of the impacts the pandemic is having on students, it has deferred mandatory fees for the U-Pass, increased its financial hardship fund, worked with international students to provide emergency aid and lobbied the university to create a tech fund for those who don’t have personal computers.

Representatives from the University of Winnipeg, Red River College and Brandon University said the schools have not made decisions yet regarding the winter semester.