Two Halifax universities are the latest to release their plans for welcoming back students and staff to in-person learning this fall.
Deep Saini, president of Dalhousie University, said in an email to the school community on Tuesday that Nova Scotia "continues to be one of the safest places in North America" during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's important to keep it that way.
Revised safety plans will allow the school to hold "almost all of our classes" in person, including the larger classes, he said.
The academic timetable may look slightly different, including more "varied class spaces" and course time slots. The full timetable will be available to students in late May ahead of course registration in June.
Phased approach for staff, faculty
Residences and dining halls will be open at a "much greater capacity" than this year. Dalhousie hopes to have more details by May 1 for those looking to live in residence during the upcoming school year.
Student services and student life will return to a much greater extent as well, including on-campus events, food services, libraries, study spaces and fitness facilities.
Faculty and staff will have a phased return, beginning in June and continuing into September. A major return to research will begin in June, with increased density in labs while following public health rules. The school aims to return the research community to campus by September.
Saini said Dalhousie is working with Public Health, the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and other universities and colleges "on a common safety framework" that will apply across the province's institutions.
Measures will include masks in many settings, guidelines for entering and exiting buildings and classrooms, and physical distancing, although at a "significantly reduced level" compared to current requirements,.
There will also be contact tracing measures, a review of campus ventilation systems and space, and continued regular cleaning of campus spaces.
At the nearby University of King's College, president Bill Lahey said in a statement Tuesday there are lots of conversations ongoing between the two schools, but King's is also welcoming people back to campus this fall with the same precautions.
Like at Dal, courses will be in person this fall with a few exceptions, and the academic timetable will look different. It should also be available in late May.
Residences and Prince Hall will be open at a greater capacity than this year. Areas like the library, gym, chapel, Wardroom student lounge and Co-op Bookstore will also open with safety plans.
International students will be welcomed back at both campuses, and Dalhousie said those who have not been vaccinated yet can be immunized in Nova Scotia.
Acadia University was the first school that had relied on online learning over the last year to announce, in early March, it would return to in-person learning this September.
On its website, the Nova Scotia Community College said it's optimistic about having more in-person learning this fall, and it would release its plan in May.
Saint Mary's University spokesperson Cale Loney told CBC last month the school is "preparing for undergraduate courses with blended delivery depending on the class size and scheduling." It said it will provide as many in-person learning opportunities for first- and second-year courses as possible, and graduate courses will feature in-person learning.
"The university will continue to have online options for students who are unable to attend in-person due to distance or personal circumstances," the statement said.
NSCAD said it plans for a "multi-modal" return to class in the fall that will include "carefully expanded studio access for students."
Mount Saint Vincent University will "offer a significant increase in on-campus classes and student services, while continuing to provide online learning opportunities for those who need or want to continue to study remotely."
"Online learning opportunities aren't new at MSVU; many of our courses and some entire programs were available online before the pandemic started," spokesperson Gillian Batten said in a March email.
St. Francis Xavier University, meanwhile, managed to hold most of its classes in 2020 in person, and the school has "every intention of returning to full capacity as pandemic conditions improve and protocols outlined by Public Health allow," spokesperson Cindy MacKenzie said in an email last month.
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