Dean Melanie Woodin of the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) has announced that, in the fall 2021 semester, students in the faculty will have the option of taking the first two weeks of classes remotely. Fall classes start on September 9, so students can attend remotely from then until September 23 if they choose.

Other than the first two weeks, the FAS is currently intending to transition to in-person learning for the rest of the fall semester.

The two-week remote option is intended to provide students, particularly international students, with flexibility in scheduling amid uncertainty surrounding border restrictions and physical distancing measures. Woodin wrote in an announcement that the fall may still be a “period of transition,” and the FAS hopes that the option of taking courses online for the first two weeks may “ease potential pressures or last-minute time crunch students may experience around final arrangements, arrivals, and other logistics at the start of term.”

According to Woodin, the faculty has heard concerns from international students and the Arts and Science Students’ Union about logistical issues with returning to Canada for the fall semester. Concerns included the availability of flights into Canada, as well as restrictions that, as of now, may still require some international students to quarantine upon arrival in Canada.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents, who are fully vaccinated, will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival to Canada as of July 5, if they have received one of the approved vaccines.

“Everyone’s preparations and potential challenges will be different over the next two months, and I am focused on making the start of the academic year as smooth as possible given the current situation,” wrote Woodin.

Woodin indicated that the status of physical distancing requirements and COVID-19 vaccination rates — particularly the rates of second doses — in Ontario will be a key factor in the return to in-person learning in the fall.

“[W]e are watching with excitement other jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere and how the speed and success of mass vaccinations has resulted in the lifting of distancing and mask requirements,” she added.

As of June 21, 74.6 per cent of people 12 years and older in Ontario have gotten their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, while 24.1 per cent are fully vaccinated. Recent guidance from health authorities allows people who have received the first dose to mix and match their second dose to become fully vaccinated — a move which is expected to increase vaccination rates. 

Woodin is set to provide another update on the fall semester in July.