President’s message on planning for fall 2021

An update from USask President Peter Stoicheff on the university’s pandemic response and recovery and planning for Fall 2021 program delivery.

Optimism is building that the world is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. More vaccines are being approved, manufactured and distributed, and people in Saskatchewan are now being vaccinated in increasing numbers. USask’s VIDO lab has a vaccine candidate in human trials, and Merlis Belsher Place is being readied as a mass immunization clinic. A recovered post-pandemic world is now in sight. With this growing optimism, our focus at USask has turned to planning for the Fall term.

As we announced in January, the Spring and Summer terms (May through August) will remain primarily remote, but I am confident we will see a significant increase to in-person, on-campus instruction for Fall 2021. Due to current uncertainties around vaccine roll-out in this province and beyond, we cannot at this stage say exactly what the proportion of face-to-face versus remote program delivery will be in the Fall term. However, the increasing number of vaccinations, combined with continued health and safety measures in the province such as mask wearing, physical distancing, and restrictions on the size of gatherings, will enable a graduated return to our campuses beginning in September for many students, faculty, and staff. We anticipate having more of our student residences open by the fall and many of our other university services and facilities operating to the fullest extent possible.

The Pandemic Response and Recovery Team will work closely with university colleagues and provincial health officials to ensure this return -- and the safety of the USask community. Program delivery details and other aspects of opening our campuses for Fall 2021 will be announced in May -- well in advance of the Fall registration period -- once the vaccine roll-out timeline is clearer. And while there is much planning and logistical work to be done, I am confident that the Fall term will begin our transition back to a completely operational university campus, with full face-to-face program delivery likely at the start of 2022. At the same time, we will work to meet the needs, where possible, of students unable to join us on campus with continued remote learning options. Similar analysis is underway to determine the options available for staff returning to work on campus or continuing with remote working arrangements.

My deepest thanks to everyone for their continued patience and responsiveness during these challenging times. A year into the COVID-19 crisis, we are closer to the end of this pandemic, but we haven’t finished with it, or it with us, quite yet. Continued flexibility may be required of all of us, as COVID-19 has proven to be unpredictable and a planning challenge. Let us all work together to do everything we can to accelerate the end of the pandemic, including continuing to follow all provincial COVID-19 guidelines and getting vaccinated when able to do so. This will ensure we are collectively headed in the direction of being back together again before too long.

Peter Stoicheff
President and vice-chancellor
University of Saskatchewan

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