The increase in sudden surge of COVID-19 cases involving the Omicron variant is a dynamic and fluid situation.
On Wednesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry sent all B.C. post-secondary institution presidents a letter outlining where and how COVID-19 is spread. In the letter, Dr. Henry indicated that based on our experience in B.C. and internationally, educational settings are low-risk for COVID-19 transmission. Dr. Henry indicated that transmission in educational settings on campus continues to be uncommon.
As Dr. Henry said in her letter, the prevention measures detailed in the Return-to-Campus Guidelines and the respective institutional safety plans have been very effective at preventing COVID-19 in a wide variety of post-secondary settings across B.C. and are expected to support a successful return to campus in January.
Based on this evidence, Dr. Henry recommended that Winter Semester classes at post-secondary institutions beginning in January remain primarily in-person. However, as we have done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we are developing a solution for the Winter semester that is right for UNBC.
Balancing our solution by keeping in mind the health and safety of the UNBC community and supporting our students by ensuring an excellent academic experience leading to their future, we will be making a short-term change to how some courses will be delivered.
The semester will begin as scheduled on Jan. 5, 2022.
When classes begin in January, all first classes of any course (which will occur on Jan. 5, 6, 7, 10, or 11) will be delivered online via Blackboard or Zoom during which time the instructor will provide more details about the delivery method.
After the first class, many courses will remain in-person, but some will temporarily shift to alternate modes of delivery until Jan. 28. We continue to evaluate the situation and will provide further updates early in the New Year. Throughout the pandemic, UNBC has implemented plans to deal with potential variants of concern, should they arise that impact our community. This is why we didn’t return to full in-person delivery in the Fall; last semester approximately 70 per cent of our classes were in-person. We are targeting a modestly lower percentage of in-person classes for the Winter semester to address this latest development in the COVID-19 pandemic.
By making this decision now, students know what to expect for the start of the Winter Semester. It also gives some time for faculty and staff to make necessary adjustments and prepare material so we can continue to offer an excellent teaching and learning environment. UNBC campuses and services will remain open during the Winter semester, for example, counselling, the medical clinic, the Access Resource Centre, on-campus housing, the Agora Dining Hall, First Nations Centre, and the Geoffrey R. Weller Library.
Due to a new Provincial Health Order issued on Tuesday, the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre is closed until Jan. 18, 2022. Memberships and fitness services are currently suspended until the re-open date.
For employees working on campuses, please continue to work with your supervisors for service delivery. For employees working remotely, please continue to work with your supervisors in consultation with the Remote Work Arrangements Principles and Guidance document.
Throughout the pandemic our community has continuously stepped up to meet every challenge. Your commitment to excellence has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for all your efforts.
Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.
President and Vice Chancellor (Interim)