Dear King’s community—and especially current and future students,
It is pure joy to write this note about the coming academic year. The good news is that teaching and learning, and our communal life in general, will once again be largely in person this fall.
Today, President Deep Saini announced Dalhousie University’s intentions for the fall. Because of our close association, we have necessarily waited for Dalhousie’s announcement of its plans to finalize our own. Dr. Saini’s announcement gives us clarity: Dalhousie’s goal is to safely open their campuses to students, faculty and staff this fall.
That is also the goal of King’s. There are still many conversations and consultations, including between King’s and Dalhousie, that have to happen before we can provide details on all the measures we will need to take to ensure in-person operations happen safely. But we will ensure they do.
These conversations and discussions, and the detailed plans they produce, will all unfold under the umbrella of the common safety framework that has been developed through the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents. This framework is being reviewed by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and will then be put before Dr. Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, for his review and approval. It envisages in-person operation by all universities, subject to adoption and implementation of safety measures to manage the reduced risk of COVID infections that will remain after population-level immunity has been reached and maintained through vaccination.
The bedrock of this framework is Nova Scotia’s continuing success in keeping the virus under control, combined with its plan to make first vaccinations available to everyone in the province 16 years or older by June 30. We can all do our part in creating the conditions needed for safe return to in-person teaching and learning and campus life by being vaccinated when the opportunity is made available to us and by continuing to adhere to all public health requirements. The province’s vaccination plan includes all students in Nova Scotia, including international students, and we are expecting arrangements to be made to make vaccination available to students arriving in Nova Scotia for the new academic year in circumstances that will be determined by Public Health. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
In tandem with Dalhousie’s message this is what we can announce today, while more detailed planning continues:
King’s will be safely open and, with a few exceptions, courses will be in person this fall. Revised safety plans will allow us to hold our classes in person, even for larger classes (100+). Each of our programs is in the planning process to make this happen. The Foundation Year Program intends to be teaching and learning in person, for both lectures and tutorials, while making available the option of a program of online tutorials and lectures for those who want to complete the program online. The School of Journalism’s undergraduate programs will also primarily return to normal, face-to-face instruction in the fall. The same is true for our upper year humanities programs.
The academic timetable will have to be reconfigured to ensure safety is built into our transition back to in-person teaching and learning. It will look different from what we are all familiar with. The full academic timetable will be available to students in late May ahead of course registration in June. Advisers in the Registrar’s Office will be available to help students navigate their way through the revised timetable.
Our decision to return to in-person classes will reduce the barriers international students have faced in coming to King’s. We will work with Dalhousie, other universities and governments to help international students make their way through the immigration process, appreciating the unique challenges many are facing at this time.
Residences and Prince Hall will be open at a greater capacity than they were this year. We hope to provide more details to students and prospective students who have applied to residence for the upcoming year in the near future.
Student services and student life will return to on-campus activity to the greatest extent safely possible, including in the Offices of the Registrar and Bursar, the Library, Gym, Chapel and President’s Lodge. Decisions on Athletics will be made at the conference level but we are confident the Blue Devils will be once again competing against other universities.
The Wardroom, Galley and Co-op Bookstore will be able to operate in person with safety plans.
Faculty and staff will be returning to campus, with a phased return starting this summer. One of the questions we will have to address is the balance we strike on a continuing basis between the work that can be done at home, where that is feasible and preferred, and the work that should or must be completed on campus.
Our return to college life will be safely accomplished by following all Public Health requirements and King’s own to-be-developed safety protocols. This is likely to include, among other measures: physical distancing of less than six feet in classrooms and other spaces; wearing of masks in some settings (including classrooms) and encouragement of mask wearing elsewhere; continuing self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms by everyone; maintaining contact tracing measures and processes; ongoing improvement of ventilation systems and procedures; and perpetuation of efforts to encourage frequent hand washing and the following of other personal safety measures by everyone. Enhanced cleaning of campus spaces, particularly surfaces, will continue. The continuation of some level of working from home, where that is feasible and desired, will itself provide a measure of protection. Under discussion are other options, such as keeping all or most meetings online.
All of this, including our plans for the return of faculty and staff to campus, will involve detailed planning, many of it in programs and departments and some at the college level, sometimes in collaboration with Dalhousie. As with the approach we took last year in preparing for a mostly online year, we will work to ensure alignment between these two levels of planning. This will happen primarily through our OH&S Committee, which will review both sets of plans, and which has done such outstanding work over the past thirteen months.
As general as it is, I hope this comes as welcome and happy news. I am thrilled to be able to share it with you. Please monitor your email or visit the King’s website for future updates. I look forward to working with everyone on all we have to now do to ensure we transition back to in-person teaching and learning and campus life while continuing to make the health and safety of everyone our overriding priority.
President and Vice-Chancellor