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Return to Campus and COVID‑19 updates ‑ January 2021

Posted by Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic (Acting); Gitta Kulczycki, Vice-President Finance and Administration on January 29, 2021 in News

MEMORANDUM

To:          Dalhousie faculty and staff

From:      Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic (Acting)
                 Gitta Kulczycki, Vice-President Finance and Administration

Date:       Friday, January 29, 2021

Re:          Return to Campus and COVID-19 updates — January 2021

We hope everyone has had a safe, successful start to the winter term. These are challenging times, and we continue to be appreciative of the significant commitment and dedication of our community to take good care of each other and to provide the best experience possible for students. We would also be remiss if we did not acknowledge your personal commitment to important health and safety protocols, including periodic asymptomatic testing, that is helping to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

We are writing with a number of general updates on Return to Campus and Dalhousie’s ongoing response to COVID-19. This email includes updates on:

We plan to issue these update emails monthly at a minimum, increasing our frequency as needed in our ongoing efforts to keep our Dal community informed.

Planning for spring/summer and fall terms

Based on Canada’s current vaccine timeline, we are optimistic Dalhousie will be able to offer an expansion of on-campus learning this fall, followed by a winter term that looks more like our normal academic experience.

Several important factors will continue to affect any decisions related to our academic offerings. These include vaccine production and distribution, expanding testing regimens, ongoing public health restrictions, and the state of domestic and international travel.

  • Spring/Summer 2021 will be much like the fall and winter: largely online, with in-person instruction focused mostly on accreditation needs and experiential learning. We are striving to have course delivery information for the Spring/Summer semester available on the Academic Calendar before registration opens on February 22.
  • Fall 2021 may require class-size limitations that keep larger lecture classes online, but our hope is that many tutorials, labs, and small-to-medium-sized classes (less than 100 students) will be able to be offered safely in person. Again, our approach may need to change depending on the evolving state of COVID-19 and vaccination rollouts. Planning for the Fall semester is underway through ongoing consultations with our Deans, Associate Deans Academic and Senate committees.

We know it is challenging for all — students, faculty and staff — to plan in a time of continued uncertainty. We will continue to provide the most up-to-date information we can as we work together to keep our community safe and ensure the continuity and quality of our academic experience

Status of Return to Campus and Return to Research

Our current phase of the Return to Campus (RTC) and Return to Research (R2R) process focuses on the successful delivery of the winter term while continuing to increase research activity where possible. Roughly 2,500 students are involved in some in-person learning this term. More than 500 faculty and staff have scheduled access to offices and workspaces (based on critical demand criteria), and more than 250 Principal Investigators have been approved for R2R activities following safety guidelines.

As was communicated in the fall, the majority of employees can expect to work remotely until at least the end of March. RTC planning will be examining and considering possible broader returns to on-campus activities beyond March, provided it is safe to do so in alignment with Dalhousie and Public Health protocols. These activities may include opportunities to increase building access and availability of limited on-campus meeting spaces.

Decisions regarding RTC and R2R planning will continue to be based on the evolving epidemiology of COVID-19, Public Health requirements, and the allocation of resources required to support the health and safety of those working on campus, with the additional dimension of the state of COVID-19 vaccination in Nova Scotia and our Dal community. We will also provide significant advance notice of any increase in on-campus activity, appreciating the significant changes it will mean for faculty and staff. We hope to share more information and guidance in the coming weeks.

Weather events – Winter term

In consultation with the Deans, RTC has determined that should weather conditions lead to a campus closure during the winter term, delivery of courses and exams (in-person and online) related to that campus (Halifax or Truro) would be suspended and would not resume until the university re-opens. This is the same guidance as was provided ahead of Hurricane Teddy in September. This decision avoids inequity between in-person and online instruction and recognizes the importance of students being able to access instructors, supports and services based in Halifax or Truro — all of which may be limited or inaccessible in a major winter event.

The procedures regarding employee work during weather events and other emergency interruptions remain as outlined in the September 2020 memo from AVP HR Jasmine Walsh.

Notifications for weather closures will continue to be communicated broadly via the DalSAFE system, including via text message, email, app alerts and website updates. For more information, visit dal.ca/dalsafe

Events and gatherings

The RTC Committee is in the process of reviewing and updating events and gatherings guidelines. We expect these updates to be available in the Campus Services section of Dalhousie’s COVID-19 website shortly — please visit the website for the latest guidance.

Travel

The suspension of university-funded travel has been extended until March 31, 2021. Those who wish to travel internationally using their research funds or the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) Travel Fund are permitted to do so in accordance with Dalhousie’s International Travel Policy. Any faculty and staff who plan to travel outside of Canada should consult with Human Resources as there continues to be significant risk associated with international travel.  The federal government advises against all non-essential travel outside of Canada. Canadian and foreign governments have implemented strict travel restrictions, there are few international travel options available, and movement restrictions often occur without warning. For more information, visit the Travel section of the COVID-19 website.

As there is no longer any restriction on travel within Nova Scotia, travel between the Halifax and Truro campuses is permitted at this time. This is subject to change based on Public Health protocols.

A reminder that those who travel across the New Brunswick border into Nova Scotia are now required to self-isolate for 14 days when entering New Brunswick and again when returning to Nova Scotia unless they are exempt from doing so. For more information, visit Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 website.

More information

Please continue to visit dal.ca/coronavirus for the latest information. Thank you for your continued efforts to be aware, safe and considerate as we all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Sincerely,

Frank Harvey
Provost and Vice-President Academic (Acting)

Gitta Kulczycki
Vice-President Finance and Administration

Dalhousie sits on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq nation. We are all Treaty people. 

We acknowledge the histories, contributions, and legacies of the African Nova Scotian people and communities who have been here for over 400 years.