LONDON, ONT. -- A pilot project approved by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities is allowing more than 1,000 students to return to Fanshawe College for in-person classes.

The students are completing in-person academic requirements to finish their winter semester, cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are students from our winter semester that weren’t able to finish because they needed access to specialized labs...they are here anywhere from two weeks, three weeks even four,” says the president of Fanshawe College, Peter Devlin.

The pilot project, which began Monday at Fanshawe, includes programs from the Faculty of Science, Trades and Technology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Community Studies and Public Safety and Faculty of Creative Industries.

Student respiratory therapists (RTs) are allowed back in the classroom, and students say they’re ready to bring their education to the front lines.

“We are the ones taking care of the airways, we are intubating patients,” says Kaitlin Smith a third-year student.

Julie Brown, the coordinator for the RT program, says she is happy to be ‘home’ teaching her students. Brown adds that the current COVID-19 climate highlights the value and importance of educating the new generation of medicine with hands-on experience.

“It’s really important that we continue to get these respiratory students through school and out joining the workforce. Any delay of that could be crucial during a respiratory pandemic.”

Brown says about three to four students will be a classroom at a time. All students are required to wear masks, gloves and sanitize frequently.

“The RT program and Fanshawe all have established a plan for us to be able to practice social distancing with our classmates, we’re all wearing masks, we’re all sanitizing, we’re all being cautious,” says Nicole Lane, a RT student.

One of the sanitation protocols the college is enforcing starts right at the front door.

When a student arrives they'll be put through a screening process where the are asked several questions before given the all-clear to enter any building.

Signage is also posted throughout the hallways and Plexiglas has been put into any classroom where physical distancing may be a challenge.

“There is a lot that has happened to provide a safe and rich and healthy environment for out students,’ says Devlin, “We’re all happy to be back.”

Both Fanshawe and Western University have said they are looking to bring students back in the fall through a mix of in-person and online courses.