As is typical for late August, we are busy preparing to welcome our students in a few weeks. But this Fall semester, of course, will be anything but typical.
Many of you have been working hard to create a safe, welcoming campus experience for the estimated 60 per cent of our students who are planning to be in the Montreal area during the Fall semester. At the same time, our teaching and learning community has been developing robust and high-quality remote learning courses. Your commitment to supporting our students on their educational journeys, no matter where they will be in the world, remains as strong as ever.
The Fall semester builds on the success of the gradual resumption of on-campus research activities, which began in May. These phases were done under a strictly controlled environment, following public health authority directives, to ensure our community’s health and safety. Throughout this careful and controlled process, the University conducted ongoing evaluations of protocols.
I would like to take this opportunity to talk about what you can expect as we continue to gradually increase the level of on-campus activity over the course of the Fall semester.
We are currently in Phase 5, which is focused on implementing in-person teaching activities through teaching hubs, safely designed study spaces, and other innovative opportunities for student engagement. Phase 5 also marks the resumption of any research activities that did not restart during previous phases.
As we have done since May, our approach relies on a de-densification of campus to ensure that two-meter distancing can be observed in our buildings. To this end, we have set a 30 per cent upper limit for overall employee occupancy on campus. Occupancy will vary by unit, according to the physical restrictions of each workspace.
As part of providing our students with a welcoming campus experience, starting next week administrative staff who provide, or support, in-person student-facing services will return to campus on a rotating basis while respecting the 30 per cent upper limit. In this context, working from home will also remain a part of our workforce strategy.
During Phase 5, all other units are invited to begin bringing all employees back to campus, also on a rotating basis and respecting the 30 per cent limit, in preparation for the launch of Phase 6. This means that all of our units will be devising on-campus resumption plans for gradually bringing back up to 30 per cent of their staff to campus on a rotating basis.
Phase 6 will be about adjusting to the “new normal,” but will not entail a full-time return to campus. Building on the progressive return to campus started during Phase 5, this phase will focus on returning the rest of the University’s staff to campus on a rotational basis, again with an overall upper-limit occupancy level of 30 per cent. We will continue to follow the same careful protocols regarding physical distancing and other safety measures.
The Phase 6 start-date has yet to be determined, and will be dependent on the success of Phase 5 and consideration of the wider public health situation. Details will be communicated in the weeks ahead.
With tomorrow being our last Summer Friday of the season, I wish you a wonderful long weekend. As always, thank you for reading.
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), on behalf of the Emergency Operations Centre