Canadian universities and colleges to return to in-person classes at the beginning of September. After an unprecedented year that saw post-secondary institutions move to virtual learning or online classes, students will once again be walking the halls of schools this fall as in-person classes resume.
On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, advised the presidents of all public universities and colleges to prepare for a full return to on-campus education.
“I am encouraged by Dr. Bonnie’s advice that a return to in-person classes can be done safely this fall for all students, staffs and faculty,” said Advanced Education Minister Ann Kang in a statement.
“In fact, it’s important to do so for people’s well-being.”
At the end of Feb, the British Columbia province announced a speedy vaccination plan that would see every qualified adult in the province receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by early to early August
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, post-secondary schools shuttered — like much of the province.
Institutions then moved to an online learning environment that created unique challenges for staff and students.
“This year has been incredibly difficult, and I have heard from many students, faculty and staffs who are eager to return to campus when it is safe to do so,” said Kang.
But, she also acknowledges that many may still feel concerned about returning back to school in the fall, but she says safety is of top priority.
“At every step, we are going to be working with Dr. Bonnie and all our partners to make ensure the right measures are in place to keep people safe,” she added.
Students, staffs ready to return
Tanisha Klassen, the chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students says students are happy with the prospect of returning back to school.
She says online learning has been a hard transition for many. The university experience is not only about learning, but also about being a part of a campus community.
“So many students, when they decide to go to an educational institution, they do not sign up to take online courses. They enrolled so they can be on campus, meet with new friends, have new experiences and concentrate on their learning with their peers in-person.”
So, today’s news is welcomed, and students are ready to return as long as it is safe to do so, she said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Brent Calvert, the president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia.
“The news is well recieved with excitements,” he said of the announcement and hopes the return to campus “is met with safety protocols and good consultation with all the parties.”
Focus on safety
As the University of British Columbia prepares to receive students in the fall, it says the health and safety of its community is its top priority.
To safely accommodate more students on campus, it says it will continue to work with public health officials on a safety plan that includes quarantine arrangements, transit planning for international students, options for onsite immunizations, and the availability of study spaces.
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“We look forward to seeing our UBC community return, making our campuses strongstaff once more,” said vice-chancellor Santa J. Ono and university president are looking forward to the safe return of staff and students to their campuses.