by Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate

SFU announced that they anticipate that 70–80% of SFU’s Fall 2021 courses will be held on campus. This is based on Dr. Henry’s recommendations for post-secondary institutions to reinstate in-person learning. In June 2021, SFU will specify which classes will be in-person and which will be remote. As Canadians’ vaccination rates increase, SFU clarified that there is no minimum vaccination rate required prior to Fall 2021 but recommended that students get vaccinated. 

After SFU re-implements in-person learning, the university will continue to adhere to the BC Center for Disease Control’s guidelines, WorkSafeBC, BC’s Restart plan, and Dr. Henry’s guidance.

“The reality is COVID-19 will continue to circulate in our communities for years to come. With advances in treatment and vaccinations, COVID-19 will be less threatening, but it will not disappear in the short term,” said Catherine Dauvergne, SFU’s provost and vice-president, academic.

SFU’s Learning Experiences Transition Survey results indicated that 45% of participants wanted in-person classes, especially for labs. However, “of those [participants] living outside of the Lower Mainland, 72% have expressed concern about barriers for their return,” such as safety, travel, and immigration policies.   

According to SFU’s Campus Recovery Plan, the transition to in-person learning will be gradual, as reflected by their implementation of four stages. Stages one to four all require approval for their safety plans.

For Fall 2021, the policies on face masks and social distancing are tentative and will be updated based on the pandemic’s progression and the upcoming edition of the COVID-19 go-forward guidelines for BC’s post-secondary sector.

At Thompson Rivers University’s post-secondary town hall with Dr. Henry, she explained that she does not require universities to enforce social distancing since classrooms are not a major area of concern. COVID-19 spreads through “intermingling” such as hugging, talking loudly, or close face-to-face contact. Sitting at a desk in a classroom without this close contact does not pose as great a risk as places like overcrowded buildings and social settings with poor ventilation. 

SFU announced that they will consistently implement these policies, maintaining campuses’ cleanliness while also reopening campus services. Students will have access to “food services, the Bookstore and Spirit Shop, computer labs, recreation services, and library services.” Currently, alumni are not permitted to visit campus.

There are four stages for reopening and they are as follows:

 

Stage 1: Due to the rising case numbers of COVID-19, campuses have an occupancy limit of 10% capacity and there is limited access to buildings. Upon approval, researchers may conduct studies on campus. All classes are online.

Stage 2: This stage allows for 10–40% capacity, limited building access, and a few in-person classes. Positive COVID-19 cases remain high but there is limited transmission. Unless faculties approve, researchers are not permitted to conduct on-campus research. This is the stage SFU is currently in.

Stage 3: While there are limited case numbers and occasional outbreaks, the building capacity will increase to 40–80%. Some classes are offered in-person. On a case-by-case basis, guests may visit campuses. 

Stage 4: This stage is SFU’s goal for Fall 2021. It entails 80–100% building capacity, continuation of public events, and reduced community spread, case numbers, and outbreaks. Based on public health guidelines, there are few restrictions. 

 

SFU’s COVID-19 Go-Forward Plan states that during all stages, members of the SFU community are required to self-assess themselves daily for COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever, sore throat, and cough. Before visiting campus, students must complete the COVID-19 Awareness for Students module via Canvas.

Those experiencing symptoms, waiting for test results, or those who may have had contact with someone with COVID-19 must quarantine. Students who tested positive and live in residence must email housing@sfu.ca. Other students who may need services during self-isolation should email student_support@sfu.ca. For students with financial need and require hotel accommodations and food while self-isolating, the COVID Assistance and Remote Engagement Support (CARES) program is still accepting applications.

By developing a pilot project for rapid COVID-19 testing, SFU researchers’ innovation may possibly be used on campus, depending on demand and public health guidelines. 

Students, staff, researchers, and alumni can stay updated with SFU’s COVID-19 Go-Forward Plan by visiting SFU’s COVID-19 support webpage, resources, and frequently asked questions. Staff who would like to learn more about Fall 2021’s transition to in-person learning can attend the Staff and Faculty Townhall on SFU’s Return to Campus, which is on June 10, 2021 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Those with more questions about SFU’s COVID-19 Go-Forward Plan can email covid19@sfu.ca.