UPEI moving all learning online due to young-adult COVID-19 outbreak

In-person classes and exams are suspended and only a limited number of employees will remain on site at UPEI as the university responds to new public health 'circuit breaker' restrictions.

Student union president says they'll be looking for more resources to support students

Campus buildings will remain locked except the W.A. Murphy Student Centre. (Brian McInnis)

All in-person classes and exams are being suspended as of Monday and only a limited number of employees will remain at UPEI as it moves to an "essential services" model due to the most recent outbreak of COVID-19.

Much teaching and learning was already taking place online due to the pandemic, with some lab-based courses among the exceptions. 

"We discussed a number of scenarios, but felt that given the decision to close the Island high schools and given the age of students, or the age of people who this was impacting, that it would be the most prudent decision for us to make this call," said Donna Sutton, associate vice-president of students and registrar for UPEI.

"The good news is that, because we did it in the spring, we're not unaccustomed to it at this point. We're just about at the end of our regularly scheduled classes, and exams are slated to start soon, so the actual class time that will have to pivot is minimal." 

Sutton said the university will work to ensure Chief Public Health Office guidance can be followed for any essential exams that have to be held in person.

Support for students

The president of the UPEI Student Union said she is not surprised by the university's decision to move all classes back online.

I think we are going to start into the winter semester more prepared.— Tolulope Oginni, UPEISU

Tolulope Oginni took over the top job with the union just three weeks ago, and now she's dealing with the latest changes at the university caused by COVID-19.

Last month, the student union released the results of a survey of students, and two-thirds said they were struggling more with mental health issues, mainly connected to the switch to online learning.

Oginni said there are better supports in place for students this time around.

"I think we are going to start into the winter semester more prepared. We've seen how students were affected this fall semester because of isolation, and not getting that in-person participation," Oginni said.

"We are definitely looking to work with the university in providing more resources to students, and probably even branch out to the government to provide more resources for students on the Island."

Oginni said the student union is looking at ways to engage students during the winter semester, even if most classes remain online. 

Campus closures

Any staff having to continue working on campus will have to follow CPHO guidelines such as respecting two-metre physical distancing, a statement from the university said.

The Robertson Library will be closed for in-person services.

Campus buildings will remain locked except the W.A. Murphy Student Centre. Dining halls and the campus food bank will remain open.

The Atlantic Veterinary College will continue to provide essential animal health services. (University of Prince Edward Island)

The UPEI Bookstore will remain operating on its regular schedule, but will reduce occupancy to a max of 10 people.

The Atlantic Veterinary College will continue to provide essential animal health services, the statement said.

Holiday break is happening early for many staff at UPEI.

The university will also be closing three days earlier. The break for most students will now run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11, according to a release.

In late November, the university said there would be a one-week delay to the start of the winter semester, with the university citing "the health and wellness of students and their overall well-being" amid restrictions resulting from the pandemic.

Students at the Atlantic Veterinary College will resume classes virtually on Jan. 4.

Reminder about symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
  • Possible loss of taste and/or smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • Headache.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose.

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