Here's how universities in Waterloo Region are preparing for the fall semester

Universities in Waterloo Region are moving ahead with plans to offer in-person learning this fall amid ongoing uncertainty about what COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will look like in the coming months.

Wilfrid Laurier University recently announced a record-high number of students have accepted offers of admission for the fall, spiking more than 18 per cent from last year's enrolment.

With the higher than usual incoming class and looming pandemic restrictions, Laurier is aiming to have classrooms at 50 per cent capacity.

Officials plan to offer all students some form of in-person learning either in a classroom setting, lab or tutorial. Masks will still be required for the fall semester.

"It is more tricky because of the balancing act of all these factors that we're looking at, vaccination rates, public health and then the program delivery that we want to achieve," said Anthony Vannelli, provost and vice-president of academics. "We're looking at the fall term as a transition term as we come out of the pandemic."

Meanwhile, the University of Guelph says it is "planning for a significant number of courses at all year levels to be offered face-to-face or include in-person components such as labs or tutorials."

The University of Waterloo says I will work to offer as many in-person learning opportunities as possible and fall courses will end the way they began, meaning if a student starts online, they finish online.

For environmental studies students like Sukhmani Sadiora, that's not ideal.

"It has been hard not having the professors there to help you if, you're let say, identifying a tree and you don't know which one it is," said the second-year University of Waterloo student.

"I would like to be back in class, I understand there are lots of safety concerns right now and I do have to respect that, but it is a shame not being able to get the experiences in person and learning everything in-person where it will stick better," Sadiora continued.

"I guess the only thing to worry about is housing because I don't have a place for the fall and in case that fall term is in-person, then I'd have to find somewhere to live," said second-year University of Waterloo student Ethan Siu.

When it comes to residences and housing, universities in Waterloo Region are not making vaccinations mandatory.

"We are strongly encouraging everyone arriving on campus this fall to be vaccinated as we continue to consult with public health officials on the best way to ensure the health and safety of our residence community," reads a statement from the University of Waterloo.

Western University and Fanshawe College, both in London, along with the University of Toronto, have all said proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be require to live in residences.

Laurier says the issue of proof of vaccination is an ongoing discussion with public health.

"It's a conversation we're going to be exploring and discussing with them, of course, because of what we're doing as an institution," Vannelli said.