This month marks an important milestone: we are resuming limited activity on our campuses in a safe and coordinated way, following all public health guidelines. We suspended on-campus education and most services in mid-March to help “flatten the curve” as the COVID-19 pandemic spread through Alberta.
Last Thursday, we began to welcome members of our community back to campus for select, scheduled activities.
Students who had their education disrupted are completing on-campus education required to complete courses or progress in their programs. This includes Continuing Education students.
We are resuming some on-campus corporate training and applied research activities to fulfill contracts with industry clients and funders.
The NAIT Assessment Centre is open and the Non-destructive Testing Centre opens later this month.
Starting today, shop AT NAIT is offering curbside pickup.
Technicians in each of the schools are also returning to our campuses to prepare labs required this fall.
Our Facilities Management and Development teams are working to ready and reopen spaces required over the summer and fall. They are installing barriers and signage and are moving furniture to facilitate physical distancing. They have increased the frequency of cleaning in high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces, as well as in labs, washrooms and other spaces that have reopened.
Even as we mark this milestone, I want to emphasize that the number of people returning to our campuses remains small. We are taking this approach to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 following Government of Alberta direction.
On average, there will be 130 students and clients on Main Campus per day in July, and about 100 in August. And there will be about 200 staff working on our campuses over the summer.
Safety on our campuses is a shared responsibility. Each of us – whether we are a staff member, supervisor, student or client – has role to play in maintaining a safe work and learning environment.
By following safety measures and doing our part, we can minimize the potential for exposure to COVID-19. Everyone coming onto campus is expected to wear a non-medical mask or face covering where 2 metres of physical distancing cannot be achieved.
Gradual reopening prioritizes health and safety
I know members of our community are eager to return to our campuses, and we’ve had many questions about our approach to reopening, especially as we see look at other sectors and see how they are moving forward. Let me address some of your questions here.
Why are we continuing to limit on-campus activity?
We are taking a phased approach to reopening our campuses that prioritizes the health and safety of the NAIT community and that aligns with Government of Alberta direction.
In its guidance for post-secondary institutions, the government encourages “post-secondary leaders . . . to continue to hold classes remotely and limit in-person attendance on campus as much as possible.”
As Alberta gradually reopens, we will assess our ability to transition our operations and will do so as we are ready, always keeping the health, safety and well-being of students, staff and our industry clients and partners at the forefront of our decisions.
The pandemic requires that we change some aspects of how our campuses operate.
Keeping the number of people on our campuses limited to only those who absolutely have to be on site will help minimize the number of individuals those attending our campuses might encounter in a day, which reduces risk.
And it will allow us to focus our efforts to keep our campuses safe and clean by only reopening spaces that are required by schools and business units to meet the objectives in Turning the Dial, which outlines our approach to NAIT’s phased reopening.
There is also the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 cases this fall that figures into our approach.
We want to limit the number of times we need to dial up or down on-campus activity, and want to provide as much certainty as possible about what work and learning will look like this year.
As we previously communicated, we will continue to deliver education and services virtually, wherever possible, through the fall and winter. Most staff will continue to work from home until further notice.
What activity will take place on campus this fall?
This fall will feel different on our campuses. One of the biggest things we’ll all notice is that there will be fewer people as we continue to deliver education and services virtually wherever possible.
We are working with the schools and business units to coordinate the reopening of rooms and buildings needed through the end of the year. We will have a better understanding of their needs – and of the activity we can expect on our campuses this fall – in the weeks ahead. We will share that information with the community once we have a full picture of what fall will look like.
As part of our efforts to limit on-campus activity and to allow us to prioritize the resources, services and supports that are most critical to meeting student learning outcomes, NAIT has decided to keep on-campus recreation facilities closed for students and staff through the fall.
We know that fitness and recreation is important to the well-being of our students, and will have virtual programming available.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to adapt and think differently about how we deliver education and student services; virtual services allow us to continue to provide recreation in new ways and reach more students while prioritizing the health and safety of our community.
Recreation facilities will only be available when there is a direct connection to our education.
Support is one of our values
We know that restrictions and the uncertainty about the future can be challenging. We know that some people are struggling, while others are thriving. Just like you, I have my good days and bad days; sometimes, it changes from hour to hour.
Support is one of NAIT’s values, and I encourage you to reach out to one another, whether to ask for help or to offer it. It is through the strength of our polytechnic community and the connections we can make with one another that will help us through this and emerge even stronger.
We are committed to open, timely communication throughout our relaunch. I encourage you to continue to check nait.ca/relaunch for updates, information and resources related to our relaunch.