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President’s update on fall planning

In early March I expressed optimism and confidence about a significant increase to in-person, on campus programming for the September Fall 2021 Term. Although COVID-19 case counts are currently high in Saskatchewan, we remain confident that, with the rapid deployment of vaccines and the support of the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Health Officer, our continued planning for a more open Fall Term can proceed.

While we are preparing to have many programs, classes and labs return to in-person delivery in September, and much more than we had in this past term, the Fall Term should be considered “transitional” as we will continue to offer some classes remotely. We will likely not complete our full transition out of pandemic operations until at least January 2022, at the beginning of Winter Term. 

On Friday May 7, students will begin to see the details for course offerings through the registration system and are encouraged to check throughout May for any changes ahead of the opening of registration windows in June. Students should carefully read the course registration details paying particular attention to the “attributes”, which will provide details on whether the course is in-person or remote.  

Alongside the increase of in-person teaching and research activity, there will be an increase in available services on our physical campuses. Student Residences will be more fully opened to safely accommodate the increase in students on campus. So, too, will food service outlets that are operated by USask, like Marquis Culinary Centre. Additional in-person student services will be phased back in to offer needed face-to-face contact for those on campus. Again, all of these in-person services will be following strict health and safety measures to protect the health and wellness of our university community. 

We’ve learned a great deal over the past year, including how to quickly move to a completely remote learning and working environment. The transition back to in-person activities won’t be as quick, but we will ensure that those members of our community who are returning to learn and work on our campuses will have the necessary protections to keep them safe. We will continue to follow the directions given by Public Health and the Chief Medical Officer. USask’s Pandemic Response and Recovery Team has worked closely with government and other partners in the Saskatchewan post-secondary sector to develop and implement plans so we can deliver our programming in the safest ways possible. Based on the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, we will also need to remain flexible and diligent. An updated Framework for Return plan will be provided to the campus community in the next couple of weeks. 

It is expected that administrative staff who directly support teaching, learning, and research, and associated student services, will return to campus this fall if their on-campus presence is necessary. As such, other administrative staff currently working from home will continue to work remotely for the time being to reduce the number of people on campus, facilitating the safety of students, faculty, and staff who will be returning. In the coming months, unit leaders will make decisions about who is able to return to campus, and when. If you are an employee, please speak with your supervisor about your unit-specific plans; Human Resources will be sharing information about the return-to-work plan in the near future. 

While we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning, we are not through with COVID-19 yet, nor it with us. Current case counts remain high, the spring and summer terms will be primarily remote, and the campus remains closed to all unless approved.  

It is the expectation of the University that everyone in the USask community will do everything possible to protect themselves and each other now, and in the Fall, fulfilling your public responsibilities by following all public health orders and occupational health and safety guidelines.  

It is important to stress that the surest step you can take to prevent COVID-19 and keep the campus safe is through vaccination. The University strongly urges all staff and students get their COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as they are eligible and ask that you encourage your friends and family members to do the same. In case you have questions about getting vaccinated, be sure to have a look at the information we are regularly updating on the vaccination website

For all USask students, faculty, and staff, I know there is growing excitement - and some apprehension - as we move towards the Fall Term. September will present a significant step towards the campus life and in-person experiences we remember. There is more planning to do, and additional details about how the fall will look will be announced over the coming weeks. And while it will still be different than fall semesters of the past, I know our campus community will work together to ensure the health and safety of everyone and continue to “protect the pack” as we work toward a full return in winter.  

Peter Stoicheff

President and Vice-chancellor

University of Saskatchewan

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