Fall 2021 planning: Return to campus guidance received

- University of Victoria

Working within the context and under the guidance of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, UVic and other BC universities are planning for a return to in-person activities on campus, including in-person instruction, in September - with faculty and staff returning sooner.

We recognize that the current course of the pandemic is much different than the conditions we expect in the fall.  As with all the planning done to date, the health and safety of our campus community remains our top priority. Please be assured that we are continuing to follow the guidance of the PHO while making preparations for a smooth transition back to campus, and being ready to adapt as needed.

To assist universities and colleges in their planning efforts, the government today released the COVID-19 Return-To-Campus-Primer to provide more detail about the key public health planning assumptions and safety measures necessary to safely guide the return to in-person activities.

The guiding document was produced by representatives from the post-secondary sector, PHO, BC Centre for Disease Control, regional health authorities and the ministry. An update to the detailed COVID-19 Go-Forward Guidelines for BC’s Post-Secondary Sector released in February is expected in the coming weeks.

Outlook for summer and fall

The COVID-19 Return-To-Campus Primer sets out these key public health planning assumptions:

  • BC’s population will be substantially vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of June, leading to significantly improved COVID-19 conditions as early as July 1. In BC, while vaccine supplies are limited, the time between the first and second dose has been extended so more people can receive their first dose and increase the benefit of limited vaccine supplies. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization supports this strategy.
  • COVID-19 transmission rates will be low. More importantly, serious infections will be uncommon - enabling public health to manage the virus in the same way as other common respiratory infections with proven prevention and control measures.

As conditions improve through the summer, we expect that some of the more restrictive public health measures affecting our personal and professional lives will be relaxed.         

As a result of the immunization program, core public health measures and tailoring of prevention and control measures, the PHO team has advised that physical distancing will not be required in controlled post-secondary classrooms and instructional settings this fall.

Commitment to health, safety and well-being

Core measures that are expected to remain in place for September, until otherwise determined by the PHO, include:

  • Completing a daily COVID-19 self-assessment and not coming to campus when ill
  • Following handwashing and hygiene protocols
  • Maintaining up-to-date campus COVID-19 Safety Plans
  • Continuing daily cleaning protocols in all indoor settings and on high-touch surfaces
  • Requiring non-medical masks in indoor common areas depending on the rate of COVID-19 transmission.

We will also continue to manage pedestrian traffic flow and discourage crowding in less controlled settings through directional signage, placement of furniture in hallways and informal spaces, and designated entrances and exits.

We recognize that some people will feel uncomfortable returning to campus given the current COVID-19 context. Our planning assumptions and guidance for welcoming students, faculty and staff to campus is informed by our commitment to follow the guidance of the PHO team to keep people safe while adapting as required to changing conditions.

In May, guidance will be available from Faculty Relations and Human Resources to assist leaders in supporting those who are uncomfortable returning to campus based on a personal or family medical concern. In the meantime, please use the existing processes for addressing medical or family status accommodation.

Two-step plan for returning to campus

Given the above planning parameters and with the PHO’s assurances and guidance contained in the primer, we are implementing the return to campus in two steps.

Step 1: Planning Step May 1– June 30, 2021 

COVID-19 Impact Rating = High. All academic, ancillary, administrative, research and student support service units develop plans to gradually re-open by increasing in-person services and activities during Step 2, while continuing to offer or support the predominantly online summer programming for students.

Step 2: Implementation Step July 1– August 31, 2021

COVID-19 Impact Rating = Moderate to Low. While continuing to offer or support the predominantly online summer programming for students, all academic, ancillary, administrative research and student support services units implement their plans to gradually increase in-person services and activities. In order to facilitate an orderly and manageable return to campus, including for the services that support employee moves (University Systems, FMGT, OHSE etc.), units will be asked to phase employees back over this timeframe, while meeting on-campus operational, service and instructional requirements.

More detailed information guiding the implementation of these steps is available on the Returning to Campus section of the OHSE COVID-19 website.

Remote work principles

We recognize that people are interested in remote work arrangements in the future and appreciate your participation in recent surveys that have helped inform our approach along with learnings from other universities. A principled approach and tools to guide remote working arrangements for staff beyond Sept. 1 will be introduced later in May. 

These planning assumptions may be adjusted based on updated recommendations and/or requirements from health authorities that affect the Go-Forward Guidelines. If at any point public health orders call for a temporary halt to face-to-face classes or other on-campus activities, we will scale back our plans, or return to predominantly online delivery on an emergency basis if needed. We are better prepared to do so now than we were in March 2020.

The university will continue to provide regular updates to the campus community about the COVID-19 context and our plans for the fall.

We remain hopeful that continuing to follow the measured and informed guidance of the PHO will allow us to safely return to campus and our dynamic and vibrant face-to-face teaching and learning environment again this fall.

Thank you again for all that you are doing in support of the current public health measures and our fall planning efforts. 

More information about post-secondary studies during COVID-19