STUDENTS, faculty and staff at B.C.’s colleges and universities are being supported to come back together for in-person learning this fall, informed by the release of new Return-to-Campus Guidelines.
This follows the announcement that B.C. has transitioned to Step 3 of the Province’s restart plan.
“The pandemic has made the past year and a half difficult for post-secondary students and institutions, but now, thanks to vaccines, brighter days are right around the corner,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, on Monday. “I am so thankful to students, faculty and staff for showcasing their professionalism, flexibility and compassion throughout the pandemic, and I am excited for students to return to in-person learning this fall.”
The Return-to-Campus Guidelines are designed to parallel B.C.’s four-step restart plan. The transition period between Step 3, which took effect July 1, and the beginning of September is a crucial time, as post-secondary institutions ramp up operations and welcome back faculty, staff and students. The guidelines highlight the importance of public health measures, such as daily health checks and hand hygiene, as well as classroom logistics and on-campus student housing and dining services. For example, on-campus student housing providers can plan for close-to-full occupancy for the fall. Access to mental health supports for students, faculty and staff, Indigenous gathering places and accommodations for on campus-services are also outlined to support the transition.
“We have made excellent progress with our provincial immunization program in B.C. That, along with declining case counts and low hospitalization rates, means we can gradually and safely move ahead with our restart plan – including in-person learning at our colleges and universities,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer. “We will continue to carefully monitor any transmission episodes on campuses, just as we do with influenza or other respiratory illnesses this fall, to keep students, faculty and staff safe. This is something we have shown we can successfully manage in B.C.”
The new Return-to-Campus Guidelines are the result of consultations with a broad team of experts from the public post-secondary sector, including Indigenous organizations and student associations, alongside faculty and staff unions, in partnership with the ministry and public health experts from the BC Centre for Disease Control, regional health authorities and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.
Previous versions of B.C.’s guidelines for post-secondary institutions have been adopted by other jurisdictions across Canada as a model for planning a return to on-campus instruction.
Further, post-secondary institutions will no longer be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan. Instead, institutions are developing communicable disease plans to reduce the risk of all respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. The goal for the fall is to transition from highly prescriptive COVID-19 specific orders and protocols back to normal institutional policies and guidance on occupational health and safety.
Brett Fairbairn, President and Vice Chancellor, Thompson Rivers University, and Chair, Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia (RUCBC), said: “The collaboration between research universities throughout COVID-19 has been critical to the student experience during the pandemic. By working together, we have also ensured that world-class research has continued despite the challenges the pandemic presented. RUCBC’s top priority is student health and safety, and we will continue to take guidance from the provincial health officer.”
Sherri Bell, President, Camosun College, and Chair, BC Colleges, said: “New approaches and technologies have ensured students at colleges throughout B.C. were able to succeed and thrive amid the pandemic. Our focus is now on supporting the full return to in-person education and on-campus services in September 2021 as an important part of the B.C. restart plan. While some people may be a little nervous as well as excited, the health, safety and well-being of employees, students and campus visitors remains the priority.”
Joanne MacLean, President and Vice Chancellor, University of the Fraser Valley, and Chair, BC Association of Institutes and Universities (BCIAU), said: “Welcoming students back to campus is something to celebrate. We have been planning a safe and gradual return to campus that allows for flexibility, support and adjustment to the change from remote study and work to campus life.”
* B.C.’s vaccination coverage is among the highest in the world, and that is what is transforming the ability to safely live with COVID-19.
* On June 29, with the transition to Step 3 of BC’s Restart plan, almost 80% of British Columbians have had at least one dose of vaccine.
* As of June 25, 64.63% of people aged 18 to 29 in B.C. had received at least one dose of vaccine. https://health-infobase.