Ontario’s universities and colleges told to prepare for normal fall — with backup plans

Ontario colleges and universities should prepare for all in-person classes and activities to resume this fall without capacity limits or physical distancing requirements, the government says.

However, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has told the institutions to have plans for how learning will continue in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks.

“While we must remain vigilant and responsive to the trajectory of COVID-19, I am optimistic that the (post-secondary education) sector will resume many of the cherished in-person experiences that have been on pause for so long,” deputy minister Shelley Tapp wrote in a recent memo to the institutions.

Tapp said it’s “anticipated” that all in-person instruction and on-campus activities will be allowed again this fall, after more than a year since they were paused due to the pandemic.

Universities and colleges will still have to follow all public health and workplace safety rules, including requiring masks indoors, Tapp said.

The schools will still have flexibility to offer teaching in a variety of ways that best suit their needs, Tapp wrote, including virtual and hybrid models.

In case of COVID-19 outbreaks, institutions must have a “continuity of education” plan ready by September, including information on health protocols in the event of an emergency and how instruction will continue if in-person learning is disrupted.

Specific guidance from the ministry on measures such as masks, screening and cleaning is set to be issued in early August.

The ministry is encouraging schools to use rapid antigen testing for routine screening of asymptomatic people, as well as wastewater surveillance for levels of COVID-19.

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