The Province of BC has revealed that in-person learning is slated to resume at B.C. post-secondary schools this fall.
The government has released new Return-to-Campus Guidelines that parallel B.C.’s four-step restart plan and aims to have students, faculty and staff back in classrooms by September.
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. Schools can also plan for close-to-full occupancy regarding on-campus student housing in the fall.
“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. “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 government says the latest guidelines were developed through 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.
“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,” said Sherri Bell, president of Camosun College. “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.”
Health officials also highlight that B.C.’s immunization program has made positive progress and a return to the classroom for post-secondary students seems promising with declining cases and low hospitalization rates.
“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.”
According to the government, post-secondary institutions will no longer be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan, but institutions will instead develop 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.
As of last Thursday, July 1, British Columbia officially entered into Step 3 of its Restart Plan, lifting a large portion of COVID-19 restrictions.