Ontario universities are eyeing on-campus classes and activities this fall — or possibly even sooner — as the province’s vaccination rollout ramps up.
“We expect to return to face-to-face instruction, and more of the on-campus experiences we all love, this coming September,” Western University President Alan Shepard said in a written release. “We know this question has been top of mind for our current students and for new students considering Western.”
And, he added, “as vaccines become more readily available over the spring and summer and as the Western community continues to remain vigilant both on and off campus, we’re increasingly confident of these plans.”
The province-wide lockdown last March sent post-secondary students home from campus, with almost all — except for those requiring hands-on labs for things like health studies — learning remotely this school year. While residences opened to first-year students last September, they did so at a much lower capacity than normal.
Schools now say they hope to have a clearer picture to give their students before the end of the winter term, at the end of April.
The University of Guelph is planning for a “safe gradual return to face-to-face learning for the fall 2021 semester” — or even earlier.
“We anticipate that this spring we will begin welcoming increased numbers of faculty and staff back to our campuses and facilities, following strict health and safety protocols and public health guidelines,” said Interim President Charlotte Yates in a written release to faculty and staff.
“This gradual return will help us ensure we can provide a safe environment for everyone.”
At Waterloo University, Media Relations Manager Rebecca Elming said it is looking to get back to normal as soon as it is safe, though specifics are still in the works.
“We have been and will continue to work with health officials and all levels of government to make the transition back to in-person campus operations safe for students, staff and faculty,” she said.
Queen’s University is “cautiously optimistic” that by the winter term — which starts in January 2022 — campus life will be back to what it was pre-pandemic.
However, for September, it is considering a hybrid model.
“We will still be living with COVID-19 in the fall, so flexible options may still be required as appropriate,” but “as part of society’s hope to be back to some degree of normalcy by fall, we are planning that many small classes, labs, and tutorials will be offered in-person, with appropriate safety protocols in place,” said Mark Green, provost and academic vice-principal, in a written release, acknowledging “this past year has been challenging.”
However, “if restrictions remain in place throughout the fall, such as physical distancing measures and class size limitations, we expect most large classes may need to be delivered remotely.”
Ryerson University says it is “actively planning for a number of scenarios in advance of the 2021-22 academic year, but no final decision has been made” as yet.
“We will not ask anyone to come to campus until government and public health agencies have told us that it’s safe to open and that the safety and well-being of our community can be assured,” the school said in a statement.
“This will likely mean a gradual return — prioritizing areas that would most benefit from in-person interaction. Our goal is to inform our community 90 days prior to the beginning of the fall semester to give time for students to plan to attend campus and for faculty to plan course delivery.”
The University of Toronto said it is “looking forward, with optimism, to fall 2021 when people can once more gather on our campuses, as permitted by public health guidelines … By September, we aim to support students, faculty, staff and librarians to return to campus, while also preserving some of the best innovations of the past year in terms of technology and flexible work arrangements.”
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