Acadia University is continuing a phased approach to reopening its campus, which began on July 6, starting with essential employees and research activities and clients of privately-run sports therapy and performance training businesses in the Athletics Complex.
Although most buildings remain closed, members of the general public are now permitted to walk across the campus providing they follow Acadia’s social distancing and mask protocols, and do not to gather in groups, linger, or hold any activities on the University grounds.
The plan is to eventually see full operations in September, although some employees will continue to work from home, and safety and health restrictions will be in place. Right now, those who work from home will continue to do so.
Acadia University’s fall semester will begin on September 21, and residences will open September 2 for staggered move-in to allow time for quarantine and University 101 programming, President Peter Ricketts announced in a message to the Acadia community on July 15, 2020.
Courses will be available in a mix of formats – in-person, virtual, and hybrid – and offered as scheduled or unscheduled, where students can take them in their own time. Acadia will offer a reduced Reading Week on November 12 and 13. The Fall Term last day of exams will be December 20, and residence will close on December 21.
“The success of this effort will require the cooperation of all members of our community,” said Dr. Ricketts. “Each of us will need to change our typical behaviour and rethink how we conduct our studies, our work, and our social lives.”
He applauded the collaborative working relationships with student and community partners in responding to the global pandemic and working together on plans for a return to campus in Fall 2020.
University officials have worked in lockstep with the Province of Nova Scotia and its Medical Health Officer as well as sister institutions, the Maple League of Universities, and the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, and local government.
“Wolfville isn’t the same without the Acadia community being here,” said Wolfville Mayor Jeff Cantwell. “As we move through the Town’s reopening plans, we are reassured by the robust planning taking place at Acadia to reopen in the fall safely. Together, we can make this work for our residents and the University community.”
Acadia’s Student Union President Brendan MacNeil agreed that collaboration is key to the success for Fall 2020. The ASU executive team has been communicating regularly to the student body to listen to concerns and bring them to the planning table.
"What I am hearing from students is that they want to return to Acadia. Students want to be a part of this caring and engaged community, and they understand the importance of following safety measures to make this a success,” MacNeil said. “The ASU is working with the University and Town of Wolfville to communicate both ways on student needs as well as the importance of these measures. Students are excited for a fall experience that is at once new and the same."
Ricketts recognized the real challenges of bringing students and employees back to campus. “Though it will be difficult at times, it is necessary, and I have no doubt it will be worth it. Ultimately, I believe these plans can and will succeed because we are a community that cares greatly for each other and this institution,” he said.
Acadia’s faculty, program, and department heads are completing distinct plans for a return to campus operations to ensure safety. In addition, all Acadia employees and students will receive information about safe movement on campus, hygiene, and the use of personal protective equipment and masks. Each will also be provided non-medical masks and agree to check for symptoms daily.
“As always, the health and safety of our community is our top priority,” Ricketts said. “While we know that we will never be able to eliminate all risk, our goal is to reduce it as much as possible by introducing multiple layers of protection and asking each member of our community to protect their health and remember their obligation to help protect the health of others.”
The University is hiring an occupational health and safety nurse coordinator, implementing social distancing guidelines, mask-wearing requirements, strict hygiene practices, health screenings, contact-tracing protocols, and supporting access to COVID-19 testing. Acadia will be reducing the density of classrooms and residence halls, and have a process established for students who need to be in quarantine or isolation. For those students who are unable to attend classes in person, many courses will be taught virtually. Details on course-specific information is being released in mid-July.
Residential spaces will be single room only; co-curricular activities will change; and dining facilities will eliminate self-service buffets, increase grab-and-go options, and reduce dining hall density. There will be no third-party events held on campus this fall.
Learning spaces and common spaces will see social-distancing measures, signage, and increased cleaning protocols to reduce contamination.
Because of the range of schools and services that make up the University and their varied programs and needs, more detailed information will follow soon from the schools and departments with which students, faculty, and staff are affiliated.
Even though Acadia will be adopting multiple layers of protection to reduce risk, the University is also planning for the possibility that some cases of COVID-19 could emerge. In such an eventuality, students exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 will quarantine in their existing residential spaces and be supported by Acadia employees. Faculty and staff exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 will not be permitted on campus until achieving a negative test result.
The University’s COVID-19 information and Student Life websites will have answers to the most common questions about the transition. “In some cases, we won’t yet have answers, and we ask for your patience as we develop plans in what will be the most complex undertaking in the history of Acadia University,” Ricketts said.
Manager, University Communications