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Dalhousie’s plan for returning to campus in the fall

Posted by Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor on April 13, 2021 in News


To: Dalhousie students, faculty and staff

From: Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor

Date: Tuesday, April 13

Re: Dalhousie’s plan for returning to campus in the fall

As we near the end of a challenging academic year, we have reason to be hopeful.

The latest vaccine timelines for Nova Scotia have partial vaccination available to everyone 16 years of age and older by the end of June, with full vaccination available by the end of September. Thanks to the amazing work of vaccine researchers, Public Health leaders and front-line care providers, and aided by our collective efforts to keep one another safe, our path out of this pandemic and towards resuming a more normal, post-COVID version of university operations is clearer than ever before. We are looking forward to having you join us on our campuses this fall.

Although the spread of COVID-19 variants remains a concern even during these initial stages of vaccine rollout, Nova Scotia continues to be one of the safest places in North America throughout this pandemic. It’s important we keep it that way. Dalhousie is currently collaborating with Nova Scotia Public Health, the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and our peer universities and colleges on a common safety framework that will apply across the province’s postsecondary institutions. Our goal is to safely open our campuses to students, faculty and staff this fall.

We recognize that our plans may need to adapt and evolve but we remain optimistic that students, staff and faculty will be able to safely return to campus for the fall. While there are many details still to be worked out, here is some important information we wanted to share with everyone in the Dal community regarding our plans for returning to campus in the fall:

Revised safety plans will now allow us to hold almost all of our classes in person this fall, including our larger classes. The academic timetable may look a little different to accomplish this safely — more varied class spaces and course time slots are a possibility, for example — but we know how important it is to our learners and teachers alike to be able to return to the classroom this fall. This planning will continue to be driven by significant consultations between Deans, Associate Deans Academic, Chairs, Directors, faculty members and Senate committees, coordinated, in part, through the Return to Campus committee and Human Resources.

The full academic timetable will be available to students in late May ahead of course registration in June. For students who have further questions about how specific courses will operate in their respective programs, Faculties will be in a position to provide more information after the release of the timetable.

We plan to welcome international students to our campuses, and those who have not been vaccinated prior to arriving in Canada will be able to be vaccinated here in Nova Scotia. Our International Centre will continue to support international students in making their way through the immigration process, appreciating the unique challenges many are facing at this time.

Residences and dining halls will be open at a much greater capacity than they were this year. We hope to provide more details to students who have applied to residence for the upcoming year by May 1.

Student services and student life will return to on-campus activity to a much greater extent, including on-campus events, food services, libraries, study spaces and fitness facilities.

Faculty and staff will be returning to our campuses, with a phased return set to begin in June and continue into September. Leaders will be asked to prepare return-to-campus plans for their Faculties, departments, units and labs, incorporating new university guidelines on flexible work that reflect the important lessons we've learned from the pandemic regarding new ways of working. Plans will be developed in consultation with faculty and staff, with support from Human Resources, and should maximize both service excellence and employee experience through the safe, steady growth of on-campus activities through the summer months and into the fall.

A substantial Return to Research will begin in June with increased density in existing labs and in adherence to Public Safety precautions. We aim to return our research community to campus by September.

All of this will be accomplished safely, in full alignment with Public Health requirements and Dalhousie’s health and safety protocols, which we will be sharing soon. Among the measures you can likely expect in the fall are: physical distancing at a significantly reduced level compared to current requirements; masks continuing in many settings until such time that Public Health relaxes this restriction; guidelines for entering and exiting buildings and classrooms to minimize risks; conducting self-assessments for COVID-19 symptoms prior to coming to campus; contact tracing measures; review and consideration of campus ventilation systems and space requirements; frequent hand washing and continued regular cleaning of campus spaces.

We know these plans will prompt more questions than we can answer in this memo, but rest assured we will continue to communicate frequently and share more details as soon as we are able. We will also continue to work closely with Nova Scotia Public Health and other provincial colleagues to ensure our plans align with the latest, best public health guidance. Finally, while this approach to the fall will be very welcome news to many in our community, there will be others who have concerns. We are here to listen, to help, and to provide whatever support and guidance is possible. We have gotten through this pandemic by looking out for one another, and we will only get out of it by continuing to do the same.

I want to once again thank everyone for their exceptional efforts during this challenging time. I continue to be inspired by what our community has accomplished, pulling together and pushing forward even though the weight of this heavy, difficult year can be hard to carry at times. I expect we will continue to feel some of that weight even as more of our community returns to campus. As we begin to bring our incredible Dal community back together again, I hope we don’t just pick up where we left off — but that we take what we’ve learned about ourselves and each other this year and build an even stronger Dal community for the future.

Please keep checking your email or visit dal.ca/coronavirus for the latest information, and I look forward to welcoming our community back to campus this September.




Deep Saini

President and Vice-Chancellor

Dalhousie University


Follow Deep Saini on Twitter and Instagram.

Dalhousie University is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. We are all Treaty people.