No plans for post-secondary schools to return to campus in 2021

To Return or not To Return: Brad Boser, director of facilities management at SAIT talks about plans for a full in-campus return for SAIT in Calgary on Jan. 28. SAIT has been forced by the pandemic to deliver most of their classes online and many are itching for a return to campus. (Photo by Lawrence Malibiran/The Press)

Calgary’s post-secondary schools have no concrete plan for a full campus return for 2021, but if vaccination plans and herd immunity kicks in, a campus return may occur for 2022.

For most of 2020, post-secondary schools had to adapt to providing students with their education online. However, as Alberta’s vaccination plans are developing and hoping that herd immunity will further protect Albertans; it may be time for some form of return to class.

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is shooting for in-class return in the fall of 2021 but don’t be surprised if they defer to the winter of 2022.

“We don’t have any concrete answers from the government on things other than the general understanding that there’s going to be various amounts of restrictions in place until they feel we’ve hit herd immunity, which really we look at it’s not going to happen until the middle of 2022 depending on how many people actually go and get the vaccinations,” said Brad Boser, director of facilities management and campus development at SAIT.

Boser said that SAIT has plenty of space to provide a safe learning environment, what is unknown is the kind of requirements students will have when returning to school.

“We want to find out if we bring students back, are they still going to be required to wear face masks or face shields in a classroom setting.”

Despite all the unknowns of what will be needed, Boser said it is in the best interest of community health to maintain mandatory masks and space restrictions to protect those that need to be protected.

Most of 2022 for SAIT will be a slow and safe reintegration of students back into school with the plan that 2023 can return to a full open campus. It will also be a time to tweak different programs for students not wanting to return.

“By 2023 we’ll have a full open campus, but our new normal might be different, right, we may not have cohorts of 25 or 30 people in the room, it might be 12 to 15 or something like that.”

A possible concern for a safe return is the number of students and staff getting vaccinated. An Angus Reid poll suggests that Albertans are more likely not to take a vaccine.

“What we don’t want to do is, is allow folks who don’t want to have a vaccination into a room that, let’s say, a lot of people have got the vaccination.”

SAIT cannot make vaccines a mandatory requirement at it is both illegal and morally wrong said, Boser. Students have the right to express their freedoms while protecting those that need protection.

“What students have to remember is it’s not just about them. We’re all here for you, Yes, but at the same time there’s you know, instructors and caretakers and all sorts of people that are putting themselves at risk to support the students.”

University of Calgary (U of C) is currently delivering a mixture of both online and face-to-face classes. This hybrid will continue for the summer and spring terms.

“This decision, subject to evolving public health guidelines, best creates the meaningful learning and engagement so essential to the student experience. This decision was reached after consultation with public health experts and our community,” said U of C in an email statement.

A decision for full campus returns for the fall semester (2021) will be made in April 2021, and any decision will be communicated to students.

In terms of how vaccinations will affect a full campus return, it will depend on the Government of Alberta’s future advice.

“The overall principle guiding the University of Calgary’s actions and decisions is to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. We will continue to follow the guidelines of the Government of Alberta based on the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer.”

What students have to remember is it’s not just about them. We’re all here for you, yes, but at the same time there’s you know, instructors and caretakers and all sorts of people that are putting themselves at risk to support the students – Brad Boser

U of C says it will provide all students with a high-quality education no matter how a course is delivered.

“When considering the format in which teaching, learning, and mentorship will occur, student learning and engagement will be at the centre of the decision-making process.”

“When it is safe to do so, the University of Calgary will ensure it is fully ready to welcome students, faculty, and staff back to full, in-person learning.”

About Lawrence Malibiran 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Lawrence Malibiran is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021 academic year.