How B.C. post-secondary institutions can bring students back for the fall semester

Post-secondary institutions will be mandated to provide a detailed COVID-19 safety plan

KPU Surrey Campus is empty while students and faculty are in quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic. (file)

The government of British Columbia has released a Return-to-Campus Primer guide, which details the changes post-secondary institutions must make as they begin planning for students to return back to campus in the fall.

B.C. is expected to have low transmissions of COVID-19 infections by fall. The virus is expected to be managed just like “other common respiratory infections” after most adults in the province receive their first dose of the vaccine.

According to the report, COVID-19 has had low transmission rates in post-secondary campuses, and the province is also expecting to loosen health and safety restrictions over the summer.

Post-secondary institutions will still have to stick to internal safety measures such as continuing proper handwashing, having up-to-date COVID-19 health protocols, frequent cleaning of campuses, wearing “non-medical masks in indoor common areas depending on the rate of COVID-19 transmission,” and students and employees will be required to assess themselves and stay at home if they feel sick.

The report says students will not be required to physical distance in classroom settings.

For international students planning to return or begin studying in Canada in the fall, quarantine rules and “federal testing” will still be required.

Post-secondary institutions will need to make sure directions are placed around campus for students and employees to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures. Seating areas will need to be rearranged to limit the amount of people gathering, and institutions will have to lessen the length of time students or employees spend in small areas like washrooms and elevators.

The primer says post-secondary institutions with on-campus housing can have full occupancy while keeping one to two per cent of housing closed off to be used for quarantine spaces. Cafeteria or on-campus restaurants are expected to operate so long as they follow the provincial guidelines.

If institutions want to restart campus activities, WorkSafeBC requires the institution to provide a safety plan. In this plan, there will need to be clear explanations on how safety measures will be maintained and how the chances of transmission will be reduced.

Since there will be no physical distancing in classrooms and there will be no limit on the number of students in a class, the report encourages students to use the same seat for the whole semester.

Since some students will not attend physical classes, institutions are expected to accommodate them with alternatives, so they are not “disadvantaged in their educational pursuits.”

Mental health support will be important for students as they return back to campus and institutions are expected to make students aware of the support available to them.