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Universities and colleges towards the return to normality

TORONTO – There will be no capacity limits or physical distance requirements. Ontario’s post-secondary institutions were given the green light to reopen in September by Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop. The ministry has already explained the guidelines for the new school year to all post-secondary education institutions in the province. And it is precisely from the new protocol that it emerges that colleges and universities are allowed to “resume normal operations for the next academic year”.

Masks, however, will still be needed inside as the government continues to encourage colleges and universities to partner with local public health units to “establish opportunities for vaccination clinics and vaccine promotion on campus.”

“While this is the planning assumption for Fall 2021, it is important to be aware that we must remain vigilant and prepared with respect to Covid-19 trends and indicators and be aligned with broader reopening planning – reads an email sent on July 16 to colleges and universities by deputy Minister of Colleges and universities Shelley Tapp – while the Ministry of Colleges and Universities is looking forward to supporting the post secondary education sector (PSE) in the return to face-to-face activities as safely as possible starting in September, I want to emphasize that PSE institutions continue to have the flexibility to provide academic education in the way that best suits the needs of students and institutions, including virtual and hybrid models”.

Distance learning or the hybrid model have often been, for students of all levels, the only methods to get around the Covid obstacle and continue learning. Now, a kind of normality can resume, while always bearing in mind that the virus is not eradicated at all.

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities then asked the institutions to plan, in case of epidemics of the virus, how to organize the study.

At the beginning of August, the ministry’s specific guidelines on measures such as masks, screening and cleaning will be issued. The ministry is encouraging schools to use the rapid antigen test for routine screening of asymptomatic people, as well as wastewater surveillance for Covid-19 levels.

A number of institutions had already pointed out their intention to hold some in presence classes in the fall, including Seneca College which announced last week that it would require anyone planning to attend campus to be fully vaccinated.

Toronto University had also told its students that it was “optimistic” about the possibility of offering in the fall “most of the courses, services and co-curricular activities” in presence. At the moment the University of Toronto is not making vaccination mandatory for activities on campus, but has made it clear that all students living in the residence must be fully vaccinated. “While we remain vigilant and responsive to Covid-19 developments, I am optimistic that the post-secondary education sector can resume many of the cherished in-person activities that have been on pause for so long,” Minister Tapp concluded.

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