PEI

Island post-secondary schools suspending in-person classes, instruction paused this week

The University of P.E.I. says all in-person classes, labs and exams are suspended for the rest of the semester.

Most campus buildings and operations remain open to students

The university initially planned to end in-person classes, labs and exams after March 20. (Shane Ross/CBC)

The University of P.E.I. says all in-person classes, labs and exams are suspended for the rest of the semester.

In a previous announcement on Friday, the university said it would cancel all in-person classes after Friday, March 20 as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. 

On Sunday afternoon, officials with UPEI decided to suspend classes earlier in light of the announcement of P.E.I.'s first confirmed case of COVID-19.

Holland College and Collège de l'île also announced suspensions to all in-person classes for the rest of the semester.

Officials with UPEI say the decision was made to protect the health and safety of its students.

"The health and safety of our UPEI community is our top priority and I recognize how this evolving global situation is very stressful," said Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, president and vice-chancellor of the university, in an email sent to students Sunday. 

"This decision to suspend in-person classes, labs and exams represents a measure to reduce large gatherings of people in line with social distancing advice from the P.E.I. Chief Public Health Office."

Efforts to 'reduce large gatherings'

Abd-El-Aziz said instruction will be paused from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 20. 

"It's really a measure ... really to try to reduce large gatherings of people," said Nicole Phillips, acting director of marketing and communications with UPEI. 

Phillips said instruction will be paused to allow professors to "develop their plan for doing this alternative method of teaching, whether it be through online or electronic communication."

UPEI services will remain open including residences, the Health and Wellness Centre, the library, AVC Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the registrar's office. 

We're continuing to monitor the situation and we're following advice from both federal and provincial authorities.— Nicole Phillips, UPEI communications representative

However, the UPEI Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre is closing at 6 p.m. Sunday until further notice, with the exception of the Reactive Health physiotherapy clinic.

The decision to close the sports centre, Phillips said was made due to the nature of its services. 

"The building is still open, essentially the sports centre won't be offering their March break camps or offering the walking track and fitness classes," Phillips said. 

Student residences to remain open

She said while the university's student residences will continue to remain open for now, as the situation evolves that could change. 

"We're continuing to monitor the situation and we're following advice from both federal and provincial authorities. So there are certainly contingencies in place." 

For now, she said there has been no change to how the university's residences operate. 

Students will still be awarded with their degrees and credentials as per usual.— Nicole Phillips, UPEI communications representative

"We're certainly, you know, ramping up cleaning procedures and the frequency of cleaning in high-traffic areas ... and recommending social distancing," Phillips said. 

She said officials with the university will be meeting on whether to go ahead with convocation as it is currently scheduled, for May 7. 

"They will be meeting tomorrow morning via online conferencing to determine a plan with regards to convocation." 

Regardless of what will be decided with the event, Phillips said "students will still be awarded with their degrees and credentials as per usual." 

Further updates to come

Phillps said the university will be issuing further updates for students on how they will be able to obtain their degrees and credentials.

The university is strongly advising student, faculty, and staff to monitor Government of Canada travel health notices.— Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, UPEI president

The president said some services and hours of operation may change in order to accommodate based on changing circumstances.

All university events are cancelled or postponed until at least April 30 and all university-related travel outside the province is suspended for students, faculty and staff until further notice.

"The university is strongly advising student, faculty, and staff to monitor Government of Canada travel health notices before undertaking any personal travel," the email to students said. 

"Employees who are in self-isolation who are able to work remotely may make arrangements with their supervisor."

Abd-El-Aziz said the university's employees who are not in self-isolation should report to work as usual.

Holland College pauses classes

In a press release on Sunday afternoon, Holland College said while in person classes are suspended students can still access campus buildings including its library, residences and Credit Union Café.

However, the buildings will be closed to the public.

Officials with the college said staff and students are encouraged to maintain good social hygiene as directed by the Chief Public Health Office.

The Culinary Institute of Canada's Food Services: The Dining Room, The Marché and The Grab & Go will be closed for the remainder of the term. 

All Holland College special events and all out of province staff travel has been cancelled.

Collège de l'île also put out a release Sunday stating in-person classes, group training, and on-the-job training that would have taken place in healthcare facilities is cancelled or postponed.

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.

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