Eduvation Blog

“Informed Optimism” in the East

Good morning, TGIF, and happy Nunavut Day!

Today I want to continue with my coast-to-coast survey of Fall announcements, but (as you can imagine) the scores of Ontario institutions are a disproportionate amount of the work – so I want to leave that for next week. Instead, let’s jump to Quebec and Atlantic Canada today.

This survey is not 100% comprehensive, I confess, but includes all the announcements that have hit my radar since Jun 2 (“the Rocky Road to Fall”). Remember, you can also check out my complete coverage since Feb 24 in the Insider Recap, “Plans for Fall 2021,” or capsule summaries in my COVID Spreadsheet (column AD).



Fall in Quebec

On May 31, as the vaccine rollout achieved its 75% first-dose goal early, the provincial government announced its directives for a return to campus by September, either with or without 1m physical distancing in classrooms and common areas (depending on vaccination targets). As a result, institutions have been making tentative announcements that toe the line…


CEGEPs across Quebec will be able to return students to “normal schooling” if the province achieves 75% full vaccination for 18-29-year-olds by the end of August – but currently they are at just 67/12. (In Montreal, 72.8% of 18-29-yos have their first dose.) The alternative will be a return to hybrid instruction, with first-year students given priority for F2F learning. CEGEPs have been pushing pro-vaccination information campaigns on social media, websites, and in mainstream print and radio. The province’s PSE minister has emphasized that vaccine mandates will not apply to higher ed, an “essential service,” but new initiatives to encourage vaccination were to be announced yesterday – including walk-in vaccination clinics on beaches.  CBC  |  Le Journal de Montreal


Concordia U advised students in early June to anticipate “a vibrant fall term marked by a return to many on-campus activities,” and to secure housing in Montreal for September. Course delivery will be a combination of in-person and remote, whether synchronous or asynchronous. (Some courses will be offered online or blended: Concordia is “refining the permanent place of its online learning offerings because it sees the benefits of this mode of delivery for all students.” Accommodations due to health concerns will need to be determined on an individual basis.) Provided that 75% of Quebecers 16+ are fully vaccinated by Aug 31, masks will become optional and universities will no longer be subject to distancing requirements.  Concordia


McGill U held a virtual town hall Jun 2 in which deputy provost Fabrice Labeau explained that McGill is now focusing on its “Realistic” scenario (1m distancing, masks, limiting non-essential gatherings) with the expectation that it could ramp up into the “Optimistic” scenario near the start of term (no distancing, few restrictions on activities or gatherings). Either way, all students should be in Montreal for F2F classes and at least 65% of all academic activities – although lectures to 150+ students will remain online. (In the Optimistic case, rooms would be used without distancing, and up to 80% of academic activities would occur in person.) McGill’s RTC timeline anticipates supervisors working on campus at least 30% in July, and support staff working on campus “occasionally” in July and at least 30% in August. Labs will increase to 65% capacity in August, and “all students and instructors” will be on campus starting in September. All admin and support staff will progressively return to 100% on campus work by October, “with the Interim Flexible Work Arrangement available for eligible staff.” (Last week, associate provost Chris Buddle shared a 4-min video to depict the return to campus and address some anxieties.)  McGill


Quebec Student Athletics (the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec) announced the resumption of sports activities for the Fall last week – although contingent on PHO endorsement. Football training camps were expected to begin in early August, with the season commencing Aug 28. Modified divisions, created last year according to COVID19 “colour zone” lines, will be continued as a precaution. Rugby is the one sport that might need to be modified, because the typical “scrum” could pose a disease transmission risk.  Le Journal de Montreal



Fall in New Brunswick

The premier of NB announced the first step on the “path to Green” back on Jun 15, as 75% of eligible residents 12+ had received at least one dose of vaccine. The announcement prompted NB universities to update their communities as well…


UNB entered phase 2 of the “path to Green” on Jun 15, and is advising students to expect the “majority of classes” this Fall to have an in-person component. The update from Mar 23 indicates that courses may be offered in-person, virtually, or using a combination of both. Larger lecture classes may be kept virtual due to capacity restrictions. Otherwise, UNB’s public announcements seem merely to point to provincial ones. (NB hopes to enter phase 3 on NB Day, Aug 2, provided that 75% of residents 12+ have received their second dose of vaccine.)


St Thomas U president Dawn Russell announced Jun 14 that >65% of its BA courses will be delivered in-person starting Sep 8, “along with numerous remote options” and “remote access accommodation available for students not able to return to campus in September due to extenuating circumstances such as travel restrictions or a medical condition.” Students “who are able” should plan to return to Fredericton, and all students should schedule their time as though remote courses are synchronous. Student services will be provided both in-person and remotely, and both residences and food services will be operating. Education and Social Work programs will be entirely F2F. “Our hope is to return to fully in-person classes and operations by January.”  STU



Fall in Nova Scotia

Dalhousie U speaks of “informed optimism” driving its Fall planning, which is based on a provincial framework that will apply to all NS universities…


Dalhousie U provost Frank Harvey assured students Jun 8 that Dal’s plan for Fall is becoming clearer as NS reopens and vaccinations roll out, “reinforcing our confidence in returning to on-campus learning in September.” Dal plans to offer most courses in person (with “a small number” continuing online) and to resume most on-campus events and services. Residences will be open on a single-occupancy basis. Masks and 1m physical distancing may still be required or recommended, depending on PHO guidance. “While vaccination will not be required to return to campus, we will be actively and enthusiastically encouraging, promoting and helping make vaccination accessible to everyone.” Also Jun 8, Harvey updated staff and facultywith more detail, all the while empathizing that “with increased clarity, the remaining uncertainty can seem even more frustrating.” Dal has reviewed ventilation in 600+ learning spaces and will be making improvements to 53 of them, including wall-mounted Hepa filtered air cleaners.


“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.”Frank Harvey, Provost, Dalhousie U



Dalhousie residences may be in short supply this Fall, as it has reduced capacity to 80% (1,800 spaces, instead of 2,300), to set aside spaces for quarantine and accommodate additional single rooms. Priority is being given to first-year students entering directly from high school, and those already living in residence. Some 500 students were apparently emailed Jun 17 with the bad news, and are scrambling to find off-campus housing in a very competitive market. Tiny bachelor apartments in Halifax are reportedly going for $1,200+utilities, while residence rooms at Dal are as little as $1,050. One student is reportedly considering an extended-stay hotel, or even living in a converted van. One parent wonders whether residence capacity could be increased if Dal joined other CdnPSEs in requiring vaccinations.  CBC


Mount St Vincent U’s interim AVP student experience, June Lumsden, wrote students Jun 30 that “the majority of courses will return to in-person on-campus delivery this fall, with an increase in online course options too for those who may need or choose to study online.” Student services are “taking a phased approach” to return to campus between now and September, with in-person appointments starting Aug 4. Residences will be open with single rooms. Students can expect physical distancing and traffic management to continue, longer running times for ventilation, and (likely) masks required in classrooms and common areas.



Fall in PEI

I haven’t noticed new announcements from PEI institutions since the ones I reported previously…


Holland College promised full-time on-campus classes for all students this fall (as of Mar 12), although class sizes will be smaller and masks will still be required indoors. Students and faculty will be divided into cohorts of up to 50, and scheduled to minimize interaction between cohorts. Some blended learning will be provided too.  CBC


UPEI said it is planning a return to a “more normal” academic experience this Fall (back on Feb 24). Some online options will continue, but with as much F2F as possible. A survey of UPEI students found significant mental health and academic challenges during emergency remote instruction. (Summer session will remain largely online.)  CBC



Fall in Newfoundland

I have to admit, the comms team at MUN has been one of the most prolific in the country over the past 2 months, at least based on the publicly-available materials designed to assist with the return to campus…


Memorial U of NL has issued a series of updates on Fall 2021 over the past month. On Jun 1, a return to campus for all employees was announced for Jul 13, “to support the return to primarily in-person teaching and learning for fall semester 2021.” A “density calculator” was available to determine maximum capacity of on-campus spaces, and masks were still required in public/common areas. On Jun 4, MUN’s RTC plan was specifically connected to the province’s Together Again plan, which “calls for organizations to begin gradual return to offices and work places from Jun 15–Jul 1.” (NL’s plan has perhaps the prettiest branding in the country, I have to say.) On Jul 6, MUN reiterated that students should plan to be on campus this Fall, even though classes of 100+ would continue to be delivered remotely. (Labs, tutorials and small seminars will be F2F, and even remote courses may have some in-person components.) Most student services will be delivered on campus, “although in some cases some services may remain remote.” Also on Jul 6, employees were reminded of health and safety procedures, and advised that “as of Jul 1, the university has adopted new density levels in alignment with the province’s next stage of reopening” (52 sqft now, and likely 30 sqft per person as early as Aug 1). MUN also released a Guide to Campus Recovery, an Employee RTC Plan, and a Guide to Living with COVID19 in our Campus Communities. (There have also been a series of videos released on YouTube, including an RTC vid from Greg McDougall, an Employee Town Hall Mar 9, a Student Town HallMar 12, and an Employee Town Hall Jun 2.)


“Some hesitancy and anxiety is perfectly normal. We’ve been living with COVID for over a year and changing our daily activities can be hard. I want to assure the university community that every effort is being made to ensure a safe environment.”Greg McDougall, Chief Risk Officer, Memorial U



Atlantic Athletics


Atlantic U Sport announced Jun 9 that athletics will “return in full” this September for its 11 member universities. (The 2020-21 season and championships were cancelled due to the pandemic, except for some exhibition play.) Football, soccer, rugby and cross-country will begin in September, with winter sports to follow. (The football schedule, which would normally begin in August, will be modified.) “We are optimistic that things will continue to go in the right direction, and that our student-athletes will be back on the field of play this fall.”  CBC



Readers Ask

Every day I get email notes and queries from subscribers, and I do my best to answer them – but sometimes I wonder whether other readers couldn’t do a better job…


High School Visits?

Reader Brian Scriver, associate registrar at St Francis Xavier U in NS, asks if there are any data points yet about whether secondary schools across Canada will be allowing recruiters to visit. (So far, the only announcements I’ve noticed come from provincial education ministries, and focus on academic delivery plans for Fall. It’s possible that school visitor policies will be determined week-to-week based on local PHO guidance, but that’s just a guess on my part.)


Does anyone have a better answer for Brian?




Since we’re reviewing RTC materials in Atlantic Canada…


Return to MUN

Memorial U’s Chief Risk Officer, Greg McDougall, narrated a calming 3-min video (released in January) to remind employees of their role in keeping each other safe, the various health and safety protocols and smartphone apps, and of course to “remember to be kind to each other.”  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading. Have a great weekend, stay safe, get vaxxed, and I’ll see you next week!



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