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Fall term update for faculty and staff ‑ June 2021
To: Dalhousie faculty and staff
From: Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic
Gitta Kulczycki, Vice-President Finance and Administration
Date: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Re: Fall term update for faculty and staff – June 2021
With the academic timetable now online, and course registration open for returning students (and for new students this coming weekend), our plan for the fall is becoming clearer. On June 2, Nova Scotia began Phase 1 of its reopening plan, reinforcing our confidence in returning to on-campus operations by September.
We have updated Dalhousie’s COVID-19 Information and Updates hub with all the latest information, including a student-focused summary of the university’s current plans for fall 2021. This site will continue to be updated in the weeks ahead with the latest, most relevant information for students, faculty and staff. Please continue to refer to these pages for the most up-to-date information regarding fall planning.
With increased clarity, the remaining uncertainty can seem even more frustrating. We know some of our community’s outstanding questions — about public health requirements, travel restrictions, etc. — are ones that are still challenging to answer, as they continue to be determined by government decisions and policies that are likely to change significantly between now and September but through timelines that are very difficult to accurately predict. We continue to plan on the best advice and guidance available, in full consultation with Nova Scotia Public Health, and promise to keep you updated as more information becomes available.
In this update, we will try to cover as much information on our fall plan as we can, including:
- Nova Scotia’s COVID outlook
- Highlights of our fall plan
- Our safety plan (including your questions about vaccination and ventilation)
- Return to campus planning
- Resources for students
Students are also receiving a student-focused version of this memo, which you can find online here.
COVID cases continue to decline in Nova Scotia, and vaccinations continue to accelerate. By the time students return to campus for the fall term, most Nova Scotians are expected to be fully vaccinated. The province’s five-phase re-opening plan anticipates a wide re-opening later this summer and population immunity achieved by early September. Students who have not been fully vaccinated prior to arrival will be able to get vaccinated in Nova Scotia.
This outlook shapes the informed optimism driving our fall term planning and explains our confidence in welcoming students, faculty and staff back to campus this September.
With Nova Scotia’s phased reopening plan, we are beginning to see restrictions lifted, including travel to and within Nova Scotia. While international travel restrictions remain unchanged, both international and domestic students are still able enter the province. We know from the government’s phased plan (phase 4) that travel into Nova Scotia will continue to evolve as the summer progresses, and we expect fewer restrictions in place by September. We promise to keep our community updated on changes to travel restrictions, specifically requirements for self-isolation/quarantine, as soon as the government releases that information.
Our plans have been developed in coordination with Nova Scotia Public Health and the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education. They are based on a framework that will apply to all Nova Scotia’s universities and is currently with Public Health for final review.
We will share our full institutional plan with everyone following its final approval. Some highlights include:
- Most courses will be offered in person. We know how important it is for both our learners and instructors to be able to return to a more robust in-person learning environment, and we are excited to be able to do so with appropriate safety measures in place based on public health guidelines. A small number of courses will continue online.
- We expect to resume most on-campus activity, including on-campus events and programming, library access, food services, study spaces, access to fitness facilities and more.
- Residences will be open this fall (single occupancy only with restrictions based on current Public Health guidelines), as will our residence dining halls.
- Faculty and staff will return to campus, with Faculty and unit leads managing flexible work schedules where appropriate (see “Return to campus” below).
- All on-campus research will also resume.
- Multiple layers of safety protocols will be in place to keep our Dal community safe. (See “Our Safety Plan” below.)
Dalhousie’s safety plan for the fall and our return to campus is focused on providing multiple layers of protection — layers that, combined with province-led vaccination, will help protect our Dal community and allow us to return to in-person activities.
It’s a plan that builds on what we’ve learned through our highly successful approach to on-campus work and learning this past year. More specifically, it is the combined impact of all these layers, rather than any one of them individually, that will keep our community safe. Some of these layers may be modified or no longer necessary by the time we reach September; others may last into the fall and beyond. Our plan will continue to evolve based on the latest public and occupational health guidance for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
You can review a summary of our plan on our Health & Safety page, but here are a few examples of the layers of protection we expect will be in place for the fall:
- Masks recommended based on the size and occupancy of classrooms/common areas
- Physical distancing at a reduced level (1 metre where practical)
- Daily COVID-19 self-screening check-in using the DalSAFE mobile app
- On-campus asymptomatic testing
- Regularly scheduled cleaning and disinfection
We will also have a strong support plan in place in the event of COVID cases in our Dal community, supporting both safe recovery from illness and the continued health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.
There are two areas of our safety plan that have sparked some discussion, and which we want to draw your attention to:
- Vaccination: Many have asked if we will be requiring vaccination to return to campus. Dalhousie is strongly encouraging, promoting and helping make vaccination accessible to everyone in our community. While we will not require vaccination to be on campus, helping Nova Scotia reach its vaccination targets is an important part of our collective re-opening.
- Ventilation: As an airborne virus, COVID-19 requires us to ensure campus ventilation is sufficient to keep our community safe. This is exactly what we have been doing in lab and work spaces throughout the past year. Dal’s Facilities and Environmental Health & Safety teams have reviewed ventilation in every learning space (600+), with remedial activity taking place over the summer as warranted. In total, 53 learning spaces will have improvements made to existing ventilation. These improvements include alterations to some ventilation systems and, in other cases, installing wall-mounted Hepa Filtered Air Cleaners to help clean and recycle existing air in tandem with operable windows (if possible). All learning spaces (classrooms, labs, etc.) listed in the academic timetable will have approved levels of ventilation based on this extensive review and remediation process. Alongside, over 165 individual Return to Research requests have been assessed for adequate ventilation with remedial action taken where necessary. Based on the building ventilation information derived from the assessment of the research and learning spaces, detailed specific guidance will be developed for office and general spaces and will be provided to unit leaders to assist with their return plans.
Faculties and units who are currently working remotely are making plans to return to campus and join those staff and faculty whose safe and successful on-campus work this past year is a big part of why planning a broader return is now possible.
Faculty and unit return-to-campus and return-to-research planning will be guided by the near-final institutional plan and consultations with the Provost, Vice-President Finance and Administration, Vice-President Research and Innovation, Human Resources, Facilities Management, Information Technology Services and other leaders and stakeholders. Each Faculty or unit’s return will be unique to their own needs, but in full alignment with Dalhousie’s plan and guidelines, including retaining the flexible work options where possible, balancing health and safety, service excellence, and employee experience with an updated approach to space planning. This is guided by our new Guidelines for Flexible Work Arrangements, which can be found here (login required).
Based on these discussions, many Faculties and units are planning for in-person returns beginning this summer and continuing into the fall. Employees can expect to hear more on timeline, process and specific safety procedures directly from your Faculty or unit in the weeks ahead.
Our return to campus will be safe and supportive, appreciating the variety of different circumstances in our community. As always, if you have concerns about your work circumstances, in addition to discussing your circumstances with your manager or supervisor you can also seek the support of Accessible Employment in Human Resources (Accessible.Employment@dal.ca). We’re here to help.
These weeks leading up to the start of a new academic year can be a stressful time for students. This is especially true this year with a return to in-person learning and many uncertainties around travel and COVID in general.
Many of you will be getting questions and concerns directly from students. Here are some resources to direct them to:
- For general information on the fall term, and links to other resources: Visit dal.ca/fall2021 or our COVID hub website.
- For courses and registration: Visit our Courses and Registration page for frequently asked questions.
- For academic advising: Visit our Academic Support website.
- For international students: Our International Centre staff are here to help international students with their questions and concerns.
- For students in unique circumstances struggling with the possibility of not being able to take in-person courses (due to health, travel, etc.): We’ve set up a Specialized Advising Request Form to help our support team connect them with the appropriate advisor and/or resources.
- For information and support on housing: Students looking for information on residence can connect with our Residence Life team, while students concerned about off-campus accommodations can seek support from our Off-Campus Living office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please continue to follow public health guidance — from masks and distancing to testing and vaccination. Doing so will help bring our Dal community safely back together again. We will continue to keep you updated on the latest information and look forward to seeing everyone back on campus in the months ahead.
Provost and Vice-President Academic
Vice-President Finance and Administration
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