As we do every August, the entire University is focused on getting ready for the fall semester. And once again, we are doing everything possible to provide the best learning environment for our new and returning students, as well as creating an experience that will meet and exceed their expectations.
But this is going to be a fall unlike any other in our history. We continue to deal with COVID-19, and we are doing this effectively. But the virus is still with us, and no one really knows how it will play out over the next several months.
As we have for nearly five months, the University of Windsor continues to operate on an essential-services model, and most of our faculty and staff are still working remotely at this time. Everyone has done an incredible job.
We are pleased that Windsor-Essex has now moved to Stage 3 of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, and that more businesses, services and public spaces will be reopening in the near future. But the province is continuing with a gradual, staged approach to reopening Ontario to both restart the economy and contain the spread of COVID?19.
We are committed to follow the province's direction and that of our Public Health agencies. As a result, and although we are diligently preparing for a return to campus, most of us will not be on-campus when the fall semester starts. Classes will be primarily online, and most of our staff and faculty will continue to work remotely — at least for now.
And until the virus is defeated, we will continue to frame all of our decisions and planning around the best ways and measures to put the health and safety of our entire campus community first. That means we will not be rushing to bring everyone back to work once the fall arrives.
There are some key things we want our staff and faculty to know as we move forward:
- There will be ample notification when staff and faculty will be expected to return to campus.
- As we have previously mentioned, the return will be phased in.
- All on-campus activities will resume gradually.
- We will also take into consideration that the members of our campus family have faced some challenging times over the past few months, and continue to do so over the days and weeks ahead. They will have our support and assurances that they will have plenty of time to make decisions when it comes to important issues involving child care and other family supports.
As we move forward, there will continue to be more information and updates provided in this space on these issues and many others.
Please regularly check the “Return to Campus” website that gathers in one place the current status of planning, guidelines for health and safety, and news associated with COVID-19. Find it here: www.empotans.com/returntocampus.
As well, here is just a sampling of the initiatives that we are hoping and are certain will make our transition back to campus successful.
Safe Lancer App: Using the Safe Lancer App, a new feature will soon be added that will allow our community to complete a digital COVID-19 self-assessment. This will consist of a few short “Yes” or “No” questions and is modelled from the on-line self-assessment presently being used by Ontario Public Health.
The app will not ask for vital signs, and no personal data is shared.
The completion of the questions helps assess the health of individuals prior to going campus each day.
Zone and Flow Analysis: Our entire campus is being scrutinized to guarantee that returning faculty, staff and students can move freely while maintaining safe physical distancing.
Through Zone and Flow analysis, the Health and Safety department, along with Facility Services, will be able to determine safe traffic flows and occupancy rates in accordance with Public Health guidelines. This will ensure people can move at safe distances through shared spaces such as hallways and stairwells to reach their intended destination.
The impact may also mean that desks, lab benches, cubicles and other workstation are moved at least two metres apart. Possible barriers will be installed at customer service counters and other front-line areas where physical distancing can’t be maintained.
Critical Research: The Research Planning Working Group and the Critical Research Committee have worked to develop a comprehensive framework and process for the resumption of research activities.
At this time, the Faculty of Science is in Phase 3 (Resumption of Field- and Lab-based Research and Facilities), and the Faculty of Engineering is in Phase 2 (Critical/COVID-19 and Time-Sensitive Research).
Face Masks: To ensure a safe transition back to campus, we will be providing three reusable, washable cloth masks to students living in residence this fall, as well as to faculty and staff upon their eventual return.
To further support the health and safety of our faculty staff and students, we require individuals to wear a non-medical mask or face covering when entering all campus buildings and in common spaces since physical distancing may be difficult (entrances, hallways, lounges, washrooms and elevators).
We thank the entire community for their co-operation and patience during this difficult and often trying time. This support has been an essential building block as we approach the fall. We trust and believe we are on the right path as we move forward. Please remember there will be many more updates to come.