Sarina de Havelyn’s university experience this year includes sitting alone on a bench outside her apartment with a computer.
Like her fellow students, the University of Victoria political science major has been attending classes entirely online this year due to the pandemic – so news that students will be able to return to campus this fall is being well-received.
“It’s really exciting, especially because we’re going to be able to make connections with professors again, make friends, have that social component that’s really been missing since the isolation started,” de Havelyn, who is also the Director of Outreach for the UVic Students’ Society, said.
It follows an announcement Monday by the Ministry of Advanced Education that said B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has instructed public post-secondary institutions to prepare for a “full return to on-campus education this September.”
Instructors are equally encouraged, saying the year of online learning has left many feeling disconnected.
“It’s much easier to be in a classroom and to feel the feelings of, ‘yes, their energy is up, they’re getting this or I’m sensing some confusion in the room, those things are missing online,” said UVic Gustavson School of Business professor Mia Maki.
But the thought of filling classrooms with people so soon also brings with it some concerns.
“What happens with masking? What happens with social distancing? So there’s still some questions for sure to be answered,” said Maki.
There are also questions about what the flood of returning students will do to an already overheated housing market and the society is raising concerns about vaccines: will the younger demographic have their shots by the time they head back to the classroom or into student housing?
“So that’s really scary and something that will have to be mitigated somehow,” said de Havelyn.
The province says it’s working on a safe return to school plan with more details to come.
The University of Victoria has issued the following statement about its return-to-class plans:
Dear UVic community,
In light of recent optimistic news from the provincial health officer, I am excited to share that UVic is planning for a full return to face-to-face teaching and learning this September.
I’ve heard from many of you how much you’re looking forward to being on campus again and I am extremely encouraged to hear from our public health experts that British Columbians could be returning to regular activities as early as this summer!
We’ve begun planning how we can bring all students, faculty and staff back safely this fall and are continuing to work with government and partners to make sure the right measures are in place to keep our community safe.
There are still lots of unknowns, and many of you will have questions. We’ll do our best to keep everyone updated over the coming weeks and months while building flexibility into our planning. When the final fall timetable goes live in May it will indicate how courses will be delivered and registration will begin in June as usual.
When this began a year ago, none of us knew how long we would be affected or the toll it would take on every aspect of our lives and work. I want to express our deep appreciation for all of your hard work and dedication and I look forward to welcoming you all to campus this September. It’s going to be a great year!
Kevin Hall, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor