‘Start planning’: Province tells universities to prepare for an in-person fall term

Dr. Bonnie Henry has told the presidents of BC universities to prepare for a fully in-person fall semester.

In a March 8 press release, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang said that the transition back to in-person instruction is important for the well-being of students and faculty.

“This year has been incredibly hard, and I’ve heard from many students, faculty and staff who are eager to return to campus when it is safe,” said Kang. “That’s why I’m encouraged by Dr. Henry’s advice that a return to in-person instruction can be done safely this fall for all students, staff and faculty.”

President Santa Ono confirmed that UBC has begun anticipating an offline September term. UBC will be readying transit plans, quarantine arrangements for international students, on-site immunization options and study space plans.

Ono said more updates on the fall course schedule and orientations will be announced in the next few weeks.

“We will also provide specific information regarding student housing and course registration as we approach housing allocation and registration periods,” Ono wrote.

A provincial steering committee will be working with experts from post-secondary institutions and Henry’s office to plan for the fall and the return to in-person classes, Kang wrote. Institutions will additionally work with WorkSafeBC and the local health agency on detailed safety plans.

The BC Federation of Students (BCFS) said this was a promising sign for students, who have been uniquely affected by the pandemic.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news to so many students who have struggled to be successful in an untested online learning environment while managing the health, safety and economic realities of the pandemic,” said Tanysha Klassen, BCFS chairperson.

Kang wrote that students should “start planning” for in-person instruction in the fall.

“It has been a challenging year for post-secondary students, faculty and staff. I would like to acknowledge the significant efforts public colleges and universities made to continue meeting the needs of students during the pandemic, while successfully preventing the spread of COVID-19 on B.C. campuses.”

This article has been updated to include comments from President Santa Ono and the BCFS.