Community Update #7 - Preparing for a new academic year

Dear Colleagues,

As a follow-up to the communication I sent out on Friday, July 31, I am writing to provide further details about what you can expect from the University in the coming weeks and months.

As I indicated last week, while Toronto has moved to Stage 3, the pandemic is still ongoing. The gradual reopening of our campuses will therefore continue to be guided by public health guidelines and the government. Within those guidelines, the goal is to make the best use of our facilities to meet urgent needs of students, faculty and staff in ways that put the health and safety of our community first. As you know, only a select number of courses have been approved for in-person activities in the Fall Term, and we anticipate that most of our employees will continue to work remotely for the duration of the Fall Term.

I am confident that our approach will enable the University to provide a high-quality learning experience for our students and allow research activities to proceed.

Gradual Return to Campus

As it is safe to do, we will continue to implement a gradual return of campus activities guided by York’s Emergency Operations Centre, and in consultation with other universities, the Government of Ontario, and Public Health officials.

Ramping Up Research

On June 29, in compliance with public health directives and following institutional principles and guidelines, we started to gradually re-open research labs that were closed due to the pandemic. The University began opening research spaces to faculty members who had graduate students near completion, and who had other deadline driven or seasonal research. We anticipate opening additional research spaces beginning the week of August 17 to support post docs nearing the end of funding, researchers with imminent grant or publication deadlines, and early career researchers whose work cannot continue remotely. The phased return to on-campus research activities is continuing as part of the Ramping Up Research recovery plan.

Fall Term 2020

The University has a full selection of academic programming for the Fall Term, with more than 95% of the 3,500 undergraduate courses being taught through on-line and remote delivery. We expect that more graduate courses can be offered in person during the Fall term due to their generally smaller size and will be able to share more information about those courses shortly. Careful planning has facilitated our ability to offer experiential in-person learning in a select number of courses, including labs, studios, and clinical placements, and additional details will be shared shortly.

Winter Term 2021 

We understand that many students, faculty, and instructors are seeking guidance about course delivery modes required for the Winter Term. Discussions have been ongoing with public health authorities and various levels of government regarding challenges for Winter including the likelihood of border openings. Work to clarify plans for the Winter Term is underway, and more information will be available soon.

Campus Safety

The wearing of non-medical mouth and nose coverings continues to be mandatory at York, if maintaining two-meter physical distancing is not possible or predictable in common and shared spaces within buildings. To ensure maximum physical distancing, classrooms, shared offices, library facilities, teaching labs and other academic and non-academic spaces are being reorganized.  In high traffic areas where maintaining physical distancing is not possible, additional protective measures such as plexiglass barriers are being installed. The University is also implementing requirements for deep cleaning prior to reopening new spaces, installing adequate signage and hand sanitizers, and ensuring that systems are in place so that we stay within prescribed limits on the number of people who can congregate indoors and outdoors.

In addition, a training module on health and safety measures has been developed and all faculty and staff will be required to complete the training prior to returning to campus.

Campus Information

Updates and information will continue to be posted on our Better Together website, and directly to community members, including:

  • Services available on our campuses,
  • What is open and closed on campuses,
  • Processes and procedures to maintain the health and safety of our community members, and
  • Where to find important campus information.

A Healthy, Safe and Successful Fall Term

I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to our students, York’s Emergency Operations Centre Team, the Emergency Policy Group, Deans, faculty members, librarians, and staff, for their leadership, perseverance, patience and support as we have successfully navigated these past extraordinary months – while preparing for the extraordinary months still to come.

I remain confident that by working together, we will ensure a healthy, safe, and successful start to the new academic year in September.

Sincerely,

Rhonda L. Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor