Message from the President: Extension of online learning/Updated guidance
The following message was distributed to members of the UPEI community via their @upei.ca emails on behalf of the Office of the President.
Dear Members of the UPEI Community,
As we begin the New Year and Winter Academic Semester, I trust that you had a nice holiday break and are filled with hope and optimism for 2022. Unfortunately, here on PEI and around the world, we continue to face an evolving public health situation with the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the COVID-19.
We continue to consult with the PEI Chief Public Health Office (PEI-CPHO) and monitor the situation daily. As a follow up from our update on December 21 and given the public health guidance announcements in recent days, we have been reviewing our health and safety protocols to ensure that we can return to in-person teaching and learning in as safe an environment as possible.
We continue to mandate masks at UPEI but now require that you wear a mask in all indoor spaces at all times except when you are actively drinking or eating, or teaching. This means that you must wear your mask when you are seated in classrooms, lounges, or other spaces, and while moving through hallways and stairways.
In accordance with the PEI-CPHO, we also recommend that you wear a good quality, properly fitting three-layer mask (versus two-layer mask) to increase protection. UPEI has procured an initial supply of three-layer masks, and has ordered more, so that anyone who does not have access to a good quality mask can obtain one. More information about distribution points will be provided in the coming days.
Vaccinations and Boosters
The UPEI Health and Wellness Centre will continue to offer vaccinations and testing for those members of our community who remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated as per the UPEI Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy. In addition to these services, we are pleased to offer third-dose vaccination clinics for those who are eligible to receive them. We are planning to open appointments for vaccination boosters by early to mid-next week, with the initial clinic being held late next week. More information about these “booster” clinics will be provided in the coming days.
Return to In-Person Classes
I convened a special meeting of the University Senate this afternoon to discuss whether the return to in-person classes on January 17 was feasible. To allow us time to prepare and ensure we are providing for a safe return to campus, it was decided that the 2022 Winter Academic Semester for most students will begin on schedule on January 10, 2022, but, out of an abundance of caution, online delivery for teaching and learning will be extended to at least January 30, with in-person classes beginning on Monday, January 31. This puts us in line with many universities in the region.
Exceptions include select courses or course components where in-person learning is required. Therefore, some laboratories and clinical activities in the faculties of Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, and Sustainable Design Engineering will be in person, following PEI-CPHO guidance. Other exceptions will be considered on case-by-case basis by the Dean of the respective faculty and the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Research. These exceptions will be communicated to students by their faculties. If you are unsure whether this applies to you, please contact the Dean’s Office in your Faculty. Faculty, researchers, and graduate and honours students will continue to be able to conduct research on-campus and in the field following PEI-CPHO guidance.
Students who are currently out-of-province should arrive in PEI at least five days (if fully vaccinated) or nine days (if not fully vaccinated) prior to January 31 to allow for the PEI-CPHO mandatory four-day or eight-day self-isolation periods.
To ensure faculty, staff, and students have sufficient time to adjust their plans and make informed decisions, we will endeavour to communicate any further changes by January 21, 2022, or sooner should conditions dictate. Please continue to watch your upei.ca email for any further updates or visit https://www.upei.ca/covid-19-information
In an earlier message today, faculty and staff were advised that if they have permission to work from home, they can continue to do so until January 17, 2022, which aligns with the PEI-CPHO’s recommendation. I once again extend my gratitude to all of you who are going over and above to support students and university operations as well as doing your part in keeping one another safe.
UPEI has a number of resources for students through UPEI Student Affairs, including personal counselling (email@example.com), and the International Student Office (firstname.lastname@example.org). UPEI faculty and staff can access the Employee Assistance Program at 1-800-387-4765 for support.
Our UPEI community has shown time and time again how resilient we are—we will continue to get through this together.
GREG KEEFE, DVM, MSc, MBA (he/him)
President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim)
University of Prince Edward Island