University of Waterloo Continuity of Education Plan

Last updated: August 25, 2023

In order to best protect and support students, faculty and staff, our Continuity of Education Plan (CEP),  together with ongoing communication, will provide clear and transparent awareness of the supports, procedures, and protocols guiding current operations and the planned and established measures for the continuity of teaching and learning in the event of an emergency.   

These plans align with provincial government and public health measures as well as local public health advice and  will be regularly reviewed and updated when necessary to reflect current guidance, advice, directives and decisions. 

Ensuring Continuity of Education

While continuing vigilant efforts to prevent COVID-19 cases on campus, the University of Waterloo is also prepared to effectively deal with such possible cases, and to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning in the event of emergency or a significant rise in cases.

Planning Principles

As in 2021, three fundamental planning principles continue to inform the scheduling of the Fall 2022 academic term and support the Continuity of Education Plan (CEP):

The University will carefully determine an appropriate mix of in person and remote instruction, striving to return to pre-pandemic in-person teaching and learning activity levels, and build on lessons learned during the pandemic to enhance the opportunity and quality of remote instruction where appropriate. 

First, in-person delivery will be prioritized for activities where achieving learning outcomes benefits most from being in-person. As public health restrictions have relaxed, the level of in-person learning and activities have increased in recognition of their importance for students, and most have returned to normal pre-pandemic scheduling.

The second principle is to leverage remote teaching or learning activities where virtual formats have demonstrated pedagogical benefit and improve flexibility and accessibility for students.

The third principle is that all instructors must have a contingency plan that outlines how the course will revert to remote learning or adapt to an unplanned stoppage for some reason, including outbreak, instructor absence or emergency closure, and communicate it to students in their course syllabi.

By following this approach, the University has built the key elements of continuity of education into every element of its academic planning for Fall.

Emergency Management

Generally, emergency management falls under Policy #60 – University of Waterloo Emergency Response. This policy governs the University’s Emergency Response and Pandemic Plans, which are executed by the Emergency Control Group.

With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic specifically, a Central Planning Group oversees the planning, health and safety mitigation strategies and response to public health advice and emergencies.

Response protocols

The following scenarios and associated response protocols are in place to address cases or a need to scale back operations to a significant degree. It must be noted that every case will be handled individually and will follow guidance and directives of Region of Waterloo Public Health (ROWPH).


1. Isolated Case(s)

General cases (excluding Residences)

Case in On-Campus Student Residence

  • Follow Campus Housing Student Self-Isolation Procedure.
  • Director, Campus Housing will keep the Associate Provost, Students of cases in residence, who will notify the President as needed.
  • Staff supporting students in residences will follow established protocols and use provided PPE to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.

2. Cases in Employee or Student Cohort

Where multiple cases in a particular employee or student cohort (e.g. office, class or residence) have been identified, the University will implement short-term mitigation measures.

The University will work with ROWPH as required to determine whether self-isolation of a residential cohort, cancellation of affected in-person classes and/or closure of affected offices, buildings or facilities is required, and to ensure that infection prevention and control guidelines and protocols are implemented to protect the health and safety of employees and students.

Based on the length of interruption to in-person learning, instructors will be directed to implement contingency plans for continuity as outlined in their course outline.

Consider if and when to stop, scale back, or modify other campus services:

  • Consider and communicate modifications to academic support, medical, athletic, social, and mental health services. Identify ways to ensure these services are provided, to maintain essential services while facilities or in-person classes are affected to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission.

3. Scaling back on-Campus operations

In the event of significant emergency and potential associated regulatory requirements, and upon direction of the province, public health authorities, or the President of the University, the following protocol will be implemented to scale back on-campus in person operations to a state where only critical/essential functions are conducted in-person and all others continue remotely. The degree of shutdown may vary depending on public health regulatory requirements.

The President, in consultation with CPG will direct and communicate the scale back of on-campus in person operations to the University community.

Timing Actions

Day 1 (2-8 hours)

Stop the spread – protect health and safety

  • Announce phase of affected operations to student and employee populations via WatSAFE app, UWaterloo email and social media. Special Constables Service and IST to assist with building security.
  • Suspend in-person teaching and lab instruction as required.
  • Employees who can work remotely to prepare for and proceed to work from home.
  • Students in Residence will be asked to report back to their residence and to remain in their unit/bedroom. Information regarding next steps for residents (e.g. move-out instructions) will be provided via Campus Housing administration.
  • Most student/public facilities (Athletics, Library, food outlets, campus businesses) will close and return to remote/modified operations. Essential supports for students remaining in residences (e.g. housekeeping, food services) will continue.

Day 2 – 7

Protect research and campus buildings

  • Research and teaching labs will have a short period of time to safely suspend on-campus in person operations, utilizing contingency plans and following Laboratory Ramp-Down and Temporary Shutdown Checklist.
  • Critical and COVID-19 related research will continue, and will be managed as defined in Faculty Resurgence Plans. All other research will continue only with approval of the Faculty Dean and Vice-Present, Research & International.
  • All non-essential facilities will safely suspend on-campus in person operations, utilizing contingency plans.
  • Safety Office will work with departmental Health & Safety Coordinators to inspect laboratories to confirm safe shutdown.
  • Ensure all buildings are secure and protection of campus is preserved.
Preservation of essential services (ongoing)

Continuation of essential services - Plant Operations, Special Constables Service, Campus Wellness, Central Stores, Animal Care Facility, IST, Campus Housing, and other essential workers.

Resources in the Event of Emergency

  • Recent news, operational or academic updates and links to resources are maintained on the University’s COVID-19 information homepage and are viewable specifically by employee, undergraduate and graduate student groups.
  • Campus Wellness resources