The University of Saskatchewan is following the example of other universities across Canada by shutting down on-campus residences. The university is urging all students who can return home safely to do so, with only three-days notice.
The U of S campus is now closed to students and the general public alike, with classes being taught remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic as there are now 72 cases in Saskatchewan. Over half of students have already moved out of on-campus residences due to classes being delivered online, particularly since the university announced that all final exams will also be taken remotely.
Originally, the university was not planning on asking students to vacate residences. But late Sunday evening, the university issued a statement announcing the closure of Voyageur Place buildings.
The Voyageur Place dorm-style residences are not ideal for social distancing when compared to apartment-style units. Students who cannot return home and had their cases approved by the university had to move to the U of S’s other residence buildings by Wednesday noon.
Three days before this announcement in an email to the Sheaf, the U of S said they were hoping to keep the residences open in order to support students that depend on them for housing and food security.
“At this time, we have international and domestic students who do not have the ability to return home,” the university said. “If they were displaced from residence, we are uncertain if and how they would find accommodations.”
The high density and social nature of student residences were already a concern to the university at the time. To address this, preventative measures were taken, such as cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces. The university meal plan cafeteria Marquis Hall, which is now closed, had begun enforcing schedules to divide residents into smaller groups.
“As a result of the residence being equipped with full in-room kitchens, Culinary Services will no longer be offering dining service, but will offer modified food delivery if a resident is in self-isolation or quarantine,” the university said.
As of March 23, there were no known cases of COVID-19 in U of S residences, according to George Foufas, director of consumer services. However, some students that arrived from outside the country have been self-isolating on the premises as a precaution. The university is preparing for possible future cases, including identifying spaces for quarantining students.
“We have asked the students who self-isolated … to monitor their health and communicate with us on a scheduled daily basis with updates,” the university said.
“We will work with our campus and local health authority to deal with the situation if it arises. We have developed protocol in order to support the student.”
Photo: File / Heywood Yu