Dear members of the Acadia community,
As we complete another academic year working through the challenges presented by the pandemic, thank you for your continued work as a community committed to individual and collective health and safety. As a university community, we have been enormously successful in keeping COVID-19 out of our campus and, more recently, containing any spread because of the new wave of infection.
I can’t thank you enough for all of the work you have done to that ensure our approach worked so well. However, as the COVID-19 virus mutates and changes as the pandemic evolves, so must we adapt our approach to those changing circumstances.
As you know, Acadia University and other post-secondary institutions have been monitoring information and guidance about the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Omicron variant with its rapid spread and anticipated peak over the coming weeks. This new phase of the pandemic and the recent policy changes by Nova Scotia Public Health mean that Acadia has to adapt its approach to managing the current public health crisis.
We have been actively planning safe operations in the winter term in alignment with public health and provincial direction. With this intention, we are making short-term modifications to the start of our winter term. We will start the term on the dates approved in the academic calendar. However, the first two weeks of classes will be online so that we can get through that critical time and assess what impacts the Omicron wave is having at that time. Subject to public health directives at the time, in-person classes will resume on Monday, January 24, 2022.
We are also changing our student vaccination and testing protocols for the winter term. With the elimination of the provincial workplace testing program, we will no longer be able to provide rapid testing clinics for all members of the Acadia community. And with the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and more reliance upon our contact tracing abilities, the university needs to have complete information on the vaccination status of our community. Therefore, we are introducing proof of vaccination or proof of testing for the winter term as a requirement for all students on campus. In the new year, we will have discussions with our employee groups about how employees will be affected by these changes in public health policies and protocols.
These modifications, supported by public health, will allow us to keep the health and safety of the Acadia community as our top priority – and will enable us to continue with plans to deliver a full winter term to complete the academic year following public health directives.
We are providing initial information in key categories below. We will share more details in the new year as they are finalized, so please watch out for announcements and further details after the holiday break.
The key elements of Acadia’s revised COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols are as follows:
The winter term will begin as scheduled on Monday, January 10. To prioritize the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, we will be delivering all instructional activities virtually until Friday, January 21. After that, in-person delivery will resume, provided public health direction allows.
Acadia residence students will be able to return to residence as planned at the beginning of winter term. To live in residence, students must provide proof of vaccination or have a vaccination exemption and commit to twice-weekly, in-person testing. Residence Life will communicate directly with residence students to provide specific information.
Acadia’s comprehensive COVID-19 safety protocols that encourage high vaccination rates and multiple layers of protection, including encouraging full vaccination, daily self-assessment, mask wearing, hand washing, physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, and air quality monitoring, remain in effect. The provision of rapid testing will be directed towards those who are deemed to be high risk or symptomatic.
All students will be required to complete a revised Student Health and Code of Conduct Pledge in early January 2022:
Residence students will be required to provide Acadia with their Proof of Vaccination (POV) status or meet medical exemption requirements and agree to twice-weekly testing to continue living in residence.
Students who live off campus will be required to confirm their vaccination status and provide their Proof of Vaccination (POV) status or follow testing requirements, including proof of twice-weekly testing at the campus testing clinics in order to attend classes and facilities on campus.
Vaccination is the most important tool in defending against COVID-19, especially in preventing the risk of severe symptoms, hospitalization, and death. Booster shots increase that effectiveness significantly, and so we encourage students, faculty, and staff to book their booster vaccinations in their home provinces as they become available. At this time, proof of booster vaccinations is not required under Acadia’s vaccination policy, but this may change as the eligibility and availability of booster shots are increased in Nova Scotia and if the definition of full vaccination changes to include a third dose. Acadia is working with Nova Scotia Public Health to offer additional vaccination clinics in the new year, both for students and employees needing to complete their full vaccination treatment and booster shots as they become available.
The library will be open beginning January 4 for study space and select services following existing health and safety measures. Visit the Library website for more details about the winter term. Opening conditions are dependent on public health requirements in January.
Student services will resume on January 4. Currently, the intent is that student services will be provided in person. However, please check websites for information on the delivery mode before arriving on campus.
In addition to any holiday hours, the Athletic Complex will be open beginning January 4 with select activities for the Acadia community bubble, following existing health and safety measures. Visit the Acadia Athletics website for more details about the winter term. Opening conditions are dependent on public health requirements in January.
Details regarding Varsity Athletics will be subject to the rules and protocols adopted by the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and will be posted by Acadia Athletics on its website.
Employees will return to work as scheduled on January 4. The university will meet with employee groups in the new year to discuss the implications of the new health and safety policies and protocols for employees, and how they will be applied.
Implementing sudden change is never easy, even when we have been so used to it over the past 22 months. This is even more difficult when the pandemic presents so many unknowns, as with the current Omicron variant.
I hope you will take comfort in knowing that the proactive short-term modifications that we are introducing for the Winter Term 2022 are designed to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community.
By working together and following the campus health and safety protocols both individually and collectively, we have successfully made Acadia one of the safest university communities in Canada during this pandemic. Let’s now stick together and maintain that incredible record for what we all hope is the final phases of the pandemic.
I know many of you will have questions about these changes, but for now, we all need to enjoy the holidays to relax and recharge our batteries for the new year. Once the university is back in operation on January 4, 2022, we will provide further information and updates as they become available.
I look forward to the time when we can all gather safely together again on our campus without the fear of infection from this virus. In the meantime, I wish you a relaxing holiday break.
Dr. Peter Ricketts
President and Vice-Chancellor