COVID 19 Update for Jan. 8: Planning for the next academic year

Posted: Jan 8, 2021 11:54 AM
Modified: Jan 8, 2021 1:08 PM

COVID 19 Update for Jan. 8: Planning for the next academic year

Posted: Jan 8, 2021 11:54 AM   |  Updated: Jan 8, 2021 1:08 PM

Our current academic year has been full of unexpected changes and challenges, and I want to thank you for doing your best to adapt to these changes.

Although winter term has just begun, this is the month where planning begins for next September. As we look ahead to 2021/22, I want to share how we’ve decided to approach our planning, given the uncertainty that remains about COVID-19. 

How will we approach our planning?

There are at least 3 ways to plan for the future. One is to plan for a best-case scenario. Another is to plan for a worst-case scenario. And a third is to plan based on what we know today and build in the ability to adapt as circumstances evolve. This is the approach we are taking.

We're sharing our planning approach with you now as part of our commitment to being transparent and providing as much certainty as possible during our ongoing response to COVID-19. We understand many of you have questions about when you can return to campus. While we are not yet able to provide specific timelines, we continue to follow provincial direction and will keep you informed of our plans as they evolve.

How will COVID-19 impact the next academic year?

The truth is, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that since the onset of the pandemic, protecting the health and safety of our staff, students and community has guided every decision. Your health and safety continue to be our most important priorities, and we are approaching the next academic year with this in mind.

As the second wave of the pandemic continues, we do not know when current health and safety restrictions will be lifted, or whether new restrictions will be required. The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Canada is hopeful news, and current information from provincial public health officials indicates that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public in Alberta is scheduled to begin in the fall. At the same time, we have also seen new strains of the virus emerge, reminding us we are not yet out of the woods.

Will everyone be back on campus next academic year?

The short answer is no, not everyone will return to campus in September. The longer answer is that while we are planning based on what we know today, we understand things can and will change, and we will adapt as we are able.

Given what we know about the pandemic, we anticipate some COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place at the start of the next academic year. We also know the situation will continue to be fluid. That’s why, as we begin planning for the 2021/22 academic year, we will carefully evolve our approach. Our goal is to keep our on-campus population low to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 as we continue to provide the high-quality polytechnic education we are known for.

As we look ahead to the 2021/22 academic year, our current plan is to

  • continue virtual instruction in most classroom-based courses
  • increase face-to-face delivery in a small number of classroom-based courses to support student success
  • continue in-person instruction in shops and labs where outcomes can only be achieved through physical learning

​It is critical to note we will revisit our approach in the coming months and adapt as we are able. We've asked departments and programs to ensure plans are adaptable, so we can respond as the situation evolves.

Why are you planning so far in advance?

With so many changes and new developments in the last few months, you may be wondering why we’ve decided to share this news now instead of waiting to see how the pandemic will evolve. 

Every year, our academic planning cycle begins in January, well in advance of the coming academic year. To ensure our essential planning work is completed on time, we must use the information we have to make  the best decisions we can about how  to plan for the next academic year. 

We're sharing our plans with you now as part of our commitment to being transparent and providing as much certainty as possible to students during our ongoing response to COVID-19. We understand many of you have questions about when you can return to campus for classes. While we are not yet able to provide specific timelines, we continue to follow provincial direction and will keep you informed of our plans as they evolve over the coming months. 

Thank you for your patience, flexibility and caring

The past year has not been easy, and I know many of you were hoping for different news about how we're approaching planning for the 2021/22 academic year. I appreciate the incredible dedication and courage you’ve demonstrated in rising to the challenges presented by the pandemic.  

We are all looking forward to a time when COVID-19 is behind us, and I’m hopeful there will be many positive developments in 2021. Please stay safe and take care of yourself and those around you.

Sue Fitzsimmons, PhD
Vice-President Academic and Provost 

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