In-person experiences resuming on February 7

Friday, January 21, 2022

On January 21 the following email was shared with the UWaterloo community

To: UWaterloo community

From: Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor
James W. E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic & Provost

Subject: Most in-person teaching and learning resuming on February 7

Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced steps to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures. The evidence shows that our collective efforts to reduce the transmission of Omicron are having an effect and we can continue our cautious return to in-person experiences.
For the University, the announcement means that we will continue to deliver essential in-person teaching and learning as we have done since January 4, and we will gradually transition to full in-person experiences with most in-person instruction starting on February 7

While COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community, individuals who are vaccinated and follow public health advice are protected from its more serious consequences. We have confidence in our return to in-person experiences as greater than 99 per cent of people who come to the University to live, learn and work are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – and many of you have also had booster doses. 
Our vaccine mandate and extremely high levels of compliance, together with the many other public health precautions we have implemented, mean that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has confirmed that there are no restrictions on in-person instruction on our campuses, and no distancing or capacity limits for instructional spaces. Nevertheless, to further reduce risks we have decided that some large lectures will continue to take place online until after reading week. At that point, as public health conditions continue to improve, we anticipate that most teaching originally scheduled to be in person will move to that format.  

We know that this transition from remote learning and working to in-person experiences will worry some people. We are also mindful of the significant pressure and negative effects that this latest lockdown is having on the physical and mental health of so many of us. In deciding to return to in-person experience in February we are striving to meet the needs of our students to have a meaningful university experience. We also want to make sure that the transition for our employees is clear and transparent. To reduce the density of people on our campuses we will have a gradual return for those who do not interact with students directly.

In detail, our return to in-person experiences in February means:

  • Most course-based instruction will resume in person on Monday, February 7 including labs, seminars, groups, lectures, tutorials and more. Students should prepare to be back in Waterloo from this date.
  • We will continue to deliver some large lectures online until February 28. Students and Teaching Assistants can expect to hear more from individual faculties on plans for specific large classes in the coming week. We will also share these details on our COVID-19 information website.   We remain committed to providing at least 14 days’ notice of changes to the mode of delivery of these specific classes. 
  • Recreation facilities and dining spaces will reopen in line with the 50 per cent capacity limitation from January 31, per the regulations.
  • Open study spaces will continue to be available with strict physical distancing and masking requirements. Study/lounge and other dining areas will also provide space for students to eat and will be monitored for capacity and student compliance with distancing and masking expectations.
  • Employees who support in-person student experiences should prepare to return on February 7 or before, depending on their unit’s needs. 
  • Employees who are currently working remotely should be ready to return from February 7 with the goal of returning to full in-person working arrangements no later than March 14. Individuals can expect to hear from their unit head on specific plans for their return to in-person working. Researchers will continue activities under our current arrangements. We will communicate any changes, such as for human-participant research, in the coming weeks.

Of course, as we prepare for this transition to in-person experiences, we will continue to be guided by public health measures and advice.  
Our transition to full in-person experiences requires us to maintain some important public heath precautions, including mask-wearing in all common use indoor spaces. Evidence suggests that wearing a well-fitting three-layer mask with a middle filter layer is effective in preventing transmission of COVID-19. 
Everyone coming to campus must also continue to complete the Campus Check-in screening questionnaire and you should stay away from the campus if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. You are not permitted to come to campus unless you have provided proof of vaccination or obtained a University-approved accommodation.

We are both very grateful for your patience and understanding as we seek to get back to safe and vibrant in-person experiences for everyone at Waterloo. We know that the ongoing uncertainty has been difficult for you to manage and that some of you will continue to face challenges as we make the shift back to learning and working in person. We encourage you all to be mindful of the individual circumstances of people around you, and to consider their needs as we move ahead.
Please keep watch on your email, our social media channels, and the COVID-19 information website for help and information.

Additional notes and information
President’s Forum
We know many of you will have questions about our plan to return to learning and working in person. Please join us on Wednesday, February 2 at 1:30 p.m. for a President’s Forum event. Experts and administrators from across the campus will be in attendance to share information on the return to in-person experiences.

January parking refunds
Recognizing that many of us have not visited campus locations in 2022, the team in Parking Services is arranging refunds for parking fees for January. Parking permits paid through payroll deduction will be waived for January for those on monthly pay and will be refunded or not charged for January for bi-weekly paid staff.
The team will individually refund the January portion of parking permits paid other than through payroll deduction at the end of February.

Support for mental health
The pandemic and changes to our ways of working, learning and living can cause challenges for all of us. If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, please know the University has resources available to support you

If you are in crisis, feeling unsafe, or worried you might hurt yourself or others:

  • call 911 if you are experiencing a life-threatening issue

Register with the Employee and Family Assistance Program to receive free support services and workshops, or call 1-800-663-1142.