UPEI ending in-person classes for semester after March 20

As of next Friday March 20, UPEI says it will suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the semester.

University moving to alternate course delivery and no in-person exams, campus to remain open

Students were informed of the changing plans for the remainder of the semester in an email Friday night. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

As of March 20, UPEI will be suspending in-person classes for the remainder of the semester.

In an email sent to students Friday night, officials said that while the university will remain open and operational, there will be no in-person classes after the 20th and no in-person exams for the semester.

"Our university leadership and the UPEI Student Union have been consulted on an ongoing basis regarding the situation," said Katherine Gottschall-Pass, vice-president academic and research, in the email.

"Based on today's update by the P.E.I. Chief Public Health Office, UPEI is taking further measures to limit the potential transmission of COVID-19."

In an interview with CBC News Friday evening, Gottschall-Pass said the university is following recommendations from both the provincial and federal governments to help students practise social distancing, which is the reason for suspending in-person classes.

"We look at the advice that's being provided to us and try to build our message based on that," she said. "Not to, you know, overreact or be reactionary, but to have a measured response and look at the advice that experts are providing."

She said some small lab groups, like in the faculty of veterinary medicine, will continue meeting.

School's not out 

Gottschall-Pass said next week will be a week of transition for the university.

"Throughout the next week, UPEI faculty and staff will prepare materials so that you are able to continue your course of study without in-person classes," Gottschall-Pass's email said. 

"Faculty members have been encouraged to be flexible to accommodate you as needed."

Gottschall-Pass said alternative delivery methods could include conducting courses online or over email, and that it is at the discretion of faculty members to determine what is best for their courses.

The email also said that due to the rapidly developing situation, "a decision to suspend in-person classes prior to March 20 could occur at any time" and the university would notify students as soon as possible. 

Although there will be no in-person exams, the email said faculty have been encouraged to provide "alternate forms of assessment." 

"We will still have exams for some courses, but again the faculty members will work with their individual classes to decide on what's going to be the best method," Gottschall-Pass said.

"Not all courses have final exams. Some courses have final papers or research projects."

'We're not abandoning them'

As for students away on exchange, the university is encouraging them to reach out and figure out a plan to get home safely, if that's what they want.

"We're not abandoning them.... We're really concerned about where they are and certainly faculty and staff have been in contact with our students," she said. 

"Some of them have varying reasons to want to stay where they are or they may want to travel back to Canada, and we're here to support them if that's the decision they want to make."

The federal government is warning against all international travel and is limiting inbound flights as part of a series of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

UPEI will remain open for operations, and all buildings and services will be open to students and faculty. This includes residences, the library, food services and the fitness centre. 

P.E.I. has no reported presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.


With files from Brittany Spencer


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