Earlier this month, U of T announced that in-person classes would begin on February 7 among all three campuses. In response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, students can expect to see enhanced safety measures implemented by the university.
The decision was influenced by several factors, including the positive impact of in-person learning for students. According to the Ontario Science Advisory Table, campus presence is critical to students’ mental health.
Though many students are thrilled to be back on campus, several are concerned about their safety, especially during the rise of a new variant. The decision has resulted in uncertainty among not only students, but also faculty. During the week of January 24, three Town Hall meetings took place to discuss the transition, including one at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM).
Nicole Wahl, Acting Executive Director, UTM Communications, provides more information about the university’s expectations for the in-person semester.
In an interview with The Medium, Wahl discusses how UTM administrators came to this ruling. She states, “The decision to increase in-person teaching and work was driven by data from U of T’s Dalla Lana School for Public Health, Ontario’s Science Table, the recommendations of public health experts, and the Ontario government.”
Wahl indicates that UTM classrooms will be equipped with hospital-like ventilation and filtration systems to maintain a clean environment. Transportation such as UTM’s shuttle bus and public transit routes will operate as usual.
U of T will continue to enforce health measures such as wearing facial coverings in all indoor areas. The university will make masks available for pickup so long as students are able to provide their UTORid. Additionally, U of T will make rapid antigen test kits accessible to students as soon as they become available to the university.
Updated on January 31, students and faculty must continue to complete the UCheck questionnaire whenever attending campus and provide proof of complete vaccination, as mandated by the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health. Students can also upload proof of booster vaccination, though not required.
“Students will encounter UCheck Student Ambassadors, raising awareness and providing gentle reminders to complete the UCheck screening. This ensures that we comply with provincial legislation and maximize our public health compliance, to keep our community healthy and safe,” Wahl states.
Regarding UTM services, the library will be open for the community and the RAWC will also operate at 50 per cent capacity. Food services will also be available at regular hours.
“Our community’s safety is a responsibility shared by all community members. Each of us is obligated to follow the advice and requirements of the campus, university, public health and government, including vaccines, masking, contact tracing, handwashing, symptom screening, staying home when experiencing [Covid-19] symptoms or significant exposures,” Wahl explains.
Wahl also emphasizes the importance for administration to maintain contact with public health officials for the safety of the UTM community.
“We remain in direct contact with the leadership at Peel Public Health and local hospitals, along with epidemiologists at U of T and beyond. We’re especially grateful to Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, for his prudence, care and leadership throughout the pandemic and for his strong endorsement of our plan to increase in-person activity on campus on February 7,” she states.
As for hospitality, a few food services including the Davis Food Court, Colman Commons, and Starbucks located in the library will resume on regular hours. However, others will be temporarily closed such as Second Cup, Booster Juice, the Fair Trade Café, North Side Bistro and Starbucks located in Deerfield Hall. Hours of operation for these services are available on UTM’s website.
With the return to an in-person learning stream, students and faculty need to work together to maintain a healthy environment. According to Wahl, U of T is working hard to deliver safe protocols for students.
“We owe these enthusiastic students a debt of gratitude and expect that all members of our community will treat them with the respect and kindness that they deserve,” concludes Wahl.