Alberta colleges and universities have released guidance on how they will operate as the province enters its first day under the latest state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not all institutions are following the same path.
Mere weeks into the new school year, thousands of Alberta post-secondary students will either carry on with going to class in person, return to online learning, or not attend school at all for the remainder of the week.
Many colleges and universities were swift to release their plans, just hours after Premier Jason Kenney announced new, sweeping measures to try and slow the tsunami of COVID-19 cases threatening a health-care system already dangerously close to collapse.
“We may run out of staff and intensive care beds within the next 10 days,” Kenney said during his primetime address Wednesday evening.
The premier said Alberta is once again under work-from-home measures (unless it’s essential a worker is on-site) and mandatory masking continues.
There is a swath of other rules to reduce capacity at weddings, funerals and private social gatherings, which started Thursday at midnight.
The province will also bring in a vaccine passport system, which it is calling a “restrictions exemption program.”
Starting Sept. 20, people will need to show proof of vaccination to enter select non-essential businesses, including retail shops, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, concerts and libraries.
Below is how each post-secondary institution responded to the latest public health restrictions:
University of Alberta
All in-person University of Alberta classes on all campuses were cancelled on Thursday, said a notice posted late Wednesday on the U of A’s website.
In addition, all indoor activities that cannot meet two-metre physical distancing requirements were also cancelled on Thursday.
Anyone already working from home should continue to do so. If you are not scheduled to be on campus Thursday, or can work remotely, please stay home.
The U of A said the province’s restriction exemption program applies to the university and allows it to continue with its current campus safety measures. As such, classes will return in person on Monday as originally scheduled for the fall term.
Previously announced requirements around masking, vaccination or rapid testing continue to be in effect.
Physical distancing is now mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces at the Edmonton college.
Between Sept. 16 and 19, all in-person classes, shops and labs are cancelled at NAIT.
Classes that are currently delivered online will continue as scheduled. Many in-person services will be impacted, so the Facilities and Services page will be updated as soon as possible.
Students who were scheduled to be on campus should stay home Thursday. NAIT said instructors will reach out in the coming days as decisions are made on how to address the impact to on-campus learning.
All instructors are also told to stay home Thursday. Other staff who are scheduled to work on campus should check with their supervisors about whether to come to campus as scheduled.
NAIT said it’s assessing how the state of public emergency restrictions will impact operations, adding it will provide an update before Monday.
All in-person classes and lab work will be cancelled for Thursday and Friday.
MacEwan students currently enrolled in practicums, co-op positions or field placements should follow the guidelines of their hosts. Online classes will continue as planned.
Employees should work from home if they are able to. Essential employees on campus must maintain a physical distance of two metres.
On-campus social events and extracurricular activities are paused until further notice.
MacEwan University said it is further evaluating the restrictions and will provide an update, including information regarding sport, fitness, recreation and performance activities, before Monday.
Further updates will be sent via email and will be posted on the university’s website, the university said.
Concordia University of Edmonton
All classes and activities on campus for Sept. 16, 17, 18 and 19 are cancelled, social gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, are cancelled, and campus is closed.
All employees who do not need to be on campus should work from home.
CUE said the administration had been discussing and working on the issue of implementing a vaccine mandate for the Winter 2022 semester, and had expected to make an announcement on Friday.
Wednesday’s government news may delay that announcement as the university works to determine its immediate path forward, it said.
In-person classes are cancelled and campuses are closed for the rest of the week.
Online classes and practicums will continue as scheduled. HyFlex courses will move to online only for the remainder of this week.
All other on-campus student activities will pause for the remainder of the week.
The vaccination clinic scheduled for Sept. 16 will be postponed to a future date.
Services to students will remain available online.
All in-person classes at the Vermilion and Lloydminster campuses are cancelled Thursday.
In-person labs will continue Thursday, following physical distancing and masking requirements.
Further updates will follow related to accessing course content online.
Red Deer College
All in-person classes, labs, shops and seminars are cancelled from Thursday to Sunday at Red Deer Polytechnic.
However, instructors will adjust delivery to online, wherever possible, to help provide learning continuity for students. Instructors will communicate class-specific information to students, to help inform them of plans.
Online and blended class delivery will continue as outlined in the Fall 2021 timetable, the college said.
RDC said other services will continue to be offered through a blend of in-person and online delivery.
Additional information will be provided Friday afternoon about course delivery for Monday and the rest of next week.
University of Calgary
University of Calgary cancelled all in-person classes from Thursday through Sunday.
Online classes and the online portion of blended classes will continue as scheduled.
Research operations can remain open with two-metre social distancing and mandatory masks.
Staff should continue to work from home unless required for campus operations.
The U of C said in-person activity will resume on Monday, when anyone who attends the school will be required to show proof of vaccination or go through regular rapid testing.
In the coming days, all members of the U of C community who have said they are fully vaccinated will be required to upload proof using the school’s COVIDSafe Campus system.
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT)
SAIT said all campuses are closed to all activity for the remainder of the week. Current online classes will continue to run.
Staff and students were told to download the SAITALERT app for emergency updates.
Mount Royal University
The Calgary university said in-person classes are cancelled and campus is closed for the rest of the week.
Online classes will continue as scheduled. All other on-campus student activities will pause for the remainder of the week.
Employees should work from home if they are able. Essential employees on campus must maintain physical distancing of two metres.
More information will be made available before the end of the week, MRU said.
University of Lethbridge
In-person classes are cancelled Sept. 16 to 19 due to the physical distancing requirement. Online classes will continue to run.
The campus is closed for in-person classes and university employees who are able to work remotely are expected to do so.
Workers responsible for maintaining necessary operations of the property will be required to be on campus. Researchers can attend campus to maintain research activities but will be required to physically distance.
The University of Lethbridge said it will fully reopen and in-person classes will resume again on Monday as the post-secondary institution meets the requirements of the restrictions exemption program, due to the previous implementation of vaccination and rapid testing requirements on campus.
Initially, Lethbridge College said there will be no operational changes at the college on Thursday.
Later in the day, the college changed course and said classes will either move online or be cancelled. No in-person classes or labs will be held.
The Campus was closed to members of the public, but students and staff could still go on property to work or access services, as long as they wore masks and maintained physical distancing.
Anyone needing to access services was urged to phone or use online services, as in-person assistance may be limited.
The food court and fitness centre was closed, the college said.
Work-integrated learning, practicums and placements were still on-going as long as the workplace is open.
Medicine Hat College
Medicine Hat College said all classes — both in-person and online — are cancelled for Thursday and Friday. The college said that step will allow staff to further evaluate the protocols as required by government.
The campuses in Brooks and Medicine Hat will be accessible for employees to meet operational needs. Employees must use masks and maintain physical distancing.
Students may visit the campuses, but must use masks and maintain physical distancing.
Late Thursday afternoon, Olds College announced on its website that it will be implementing the Alberta government’s new restrictions exemption program, requiring staff and students to either provide proof of vaccination, documentation of a medical exemption or proof of a privately-paid negative PCR or rapid test that has been completed within 72 hours of each daily attendance on campus.
“Olds College will reimburse the cost of the PCR or rapid testing for those students and staff who decide to get their first dose of the vaccine between today and prior to Sept. 20,” the college said, adding that a limited number of rapid tests will be available for people to purchase at the Olds College Health and Wellness Centre.
Grande Prairie Regional College
On Thursday, Grande Prairie Regional College announced on its Facebook page that it will be implementing the Alberta government’s new restrictions exemption program on Sept. 20, requiring staff and students to either provide proof of vaccination, documentation of a medical exemption or proof of a privately-paid negative PCR or rapid test that has been completed within 72 hours of each daily attendance on campus.
“We recognize the sudden nature of these new requirements and the inherent challenges,” the college said on its website. “GPRC is committed to sharing further information and resources as they become available. Please continue to check back here often for additional guidance and support.”
New information on the state of public health emergency was not readily available Thursday morning on the website of the following institution:
Wednesday COVID-19 statistics
On Wednesday, Alberta had 269 patients in intensive care in a system set up for 173. Of the 269 patients in ICUs, 218 have COVID-19 — the vast majority unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Alberta’s death toll reached 2,495, up from 2,471 on Tuesday, meaning 24 COVID-related deaths were reported in the 24 hours.
Alberta Health said it had identified 1,609 new COVID-19 cases out of 15,831 tests. The province’s positivity rate sat at 10.5 per cent.
There were 18,421 active cases in the province.
— with files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press