Assuming there’s not a sudden shift in provincial COVID-19 health guidelines, Capilano University is preparing to welcome students back to in-person classes this fall.
Since last year, the post-secondary institution has delivered most of its courses and programs online, with certain courses offered in-person on a limited basis, in order to abide by physical distancing requirements due to the pandemic.
With B.C.’s vaccine rollout expected to see the majority of adults – and specifically, young adults – vaccinated by the end of July, it was announced on Monday that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had contacted public colleges and universities throughout the province and instructed them to prepare for a full return to on-campus education in September.
“We are planning for maximum in-person classes and activities at our campuses and learning locations in September, keeping health and safety in the foreground. Careful planning for a safe return to campus for students and employees will take time,” said Laureen Styles, vice-president academic and provost at Capilano University. “The university has started work to update our health and safety guidelines in alignment with anticipated updates to the government’s go-forward guidelines for the post-secondary sector.”
Although most course instruction and campus services have been delivered remotely for the past year, the university has had a number of health and safety protocols in place for what limited on-campus activities there have been, such as installing physical distancing barriers, implementing wellness checks for employees, students and visitors, and increasing hand-washing facilities around campus.
The university will update and continue to maintain its own health and safety guidelines in alignment with updates from the province, said Styles.
In the weeks ahead, school administrators will consult with the provincial health office, the BC Centre for Disease Control, WorkSafeBC, and the Capilano Students’ Union in coming up with best practices for reinstating on-campus instruction at the university.
Bob Muckle, an archeologist and instructor at Capilano University, said he was caught off guard by the province’s direction that post-secondary institutions should prepare for a full return after a year of mainly delivering distanced education.
Although Muckle said he was mostly raring to resume in-person teaching, he was surprised the announcement wasn’t for a partial reopening to slowly reintroduce the population to on-campus education.
“I just assumed they’d be given the option to keep the number of people on campus down. In my mind, I was thinking that if I get the option I’ll teach half my courses in-person and half online,” said Muckle. “Now, to expect several thousand people on campus at once seems rather remarkable to me.”
Grace Dupasquier, vice-president external of the Capilano Students’ Union, said that many students were eager to return to the normalcy of learning on-campus, while others were still concerned with what returning to the classroom could mean for public safety.
The students’ union was happy to have a seat at the table when consulting with administration on what a transition back to class will look like, she said.
“We will have a seat at the table and will ensure that students’ concerns are heard every step of the way. A return to in-person instruction needs to happen thoughtfully and safely, and in a way that ensures that no student is left behind,” stated Dupasquier, in an emailed statement.
More details for the fall 2021 semester will be announced in May, according to Styles. In the meantime, students are encouraged to check the university’s COVID-19 response page for up-to-date information.
Institutions will also be allowed to further tailor the province’s guidelines to suit their specific requirements, according to a report from The Canadian Press.
“We are planning for a full return to campus activities with the hope it can take place, and building on the good changes that have happened over the last year,” said Styles, referring to the increased access to courses and more flexibility for learners offered by distanced learning. “We look forward to welcoming students back to campus.”
Capilano University’s main campus is located in North Vancouver. The university also has a regional campus in Sechelt that serves the Sunshine Coast communities.