While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to tear through Saskatchewan, the university remains confident in their plans for a more open Fall Term.
In a new update on May 5, University President Peter Stoicheff announced that the university is continuing to plan for an increase of in-person teaching, research and services on its campuses in the fall. He says that the province’s vaccine delivery progress and the support of the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Health Officer were factors in this decision.
According to the release, the university is preparing to have many programs, classes and labs return to in-person delivery in September, along with more fully open campus food service outlets and student residences. All on-campus residences have been closed since March 2020, while the Marquis Culinary Centre and the House and Quarter Takeaway are the only Culinary Services locations currently operational.
Additional face-to-face services will also be phased back with strict health and safety measures, Stoicheff says.
“While we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning, we are not through with COVID-19 yet, nor it with us,” Stoicheff writes.
He projects that the university will not be completely out of pandemic operations until at least the beginning of Winter Term.
“We’ve learned a great deal over the past year, including how to quickly move to a completely remote learning and working environment,” Stoicheff writes. “The transition back to in-person activities won’t be as quick, but we will ensure that those members of our community who are returning to learn and work on our campuses will have the necessary protections to keep them safe.”
Stoicheff stresses that “the surest step you can take to prevent COVID-19 and keep the campus safe is through vaccination.” While the university “strongly urges” all staff and students to get their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible, vaccination will not be mandatory for those returning to campus. This announcement came earlier this week, after two unions representing U of S workers passed motions calling for a vaccine requirement.
Stoicheff says that the U of S expects that all members of the university community “will do everything possible to protect themselves and each other now, and in the Fall” by following public and occupational health guidelines.
Administrative staff who directly support teaching, learning, research or associated student services are expected to return to campus in the fall, while other staff will continue working remotely. In the coming months, university unit leaders will make decisions on exactly who will be working on campus, reads the release.
As for students, Stoicheff encourages them to check their course offerings ahead of the opening of registration windows in June. Students will be able to check whether a course is being delivered in-person or remotely in the “attributes” section of course registration details.
Stoicheff says that students can expect more information on the return to campus in the coming weeks.
“September will present a significant step towards the campus life and in-person experiences we remember,” Stoicheff writes. “And while it will still be different than fall semesters of the past, I know our campus community will work together to ensure the health and safety of everyone and continue to ‘protect the pack’ as we work toward a full return in winter.”