Working together with the Provincial Health Officer, the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Training and colleges from across British Columbia, Selkirk College has measures in place to keep focus on the number-one priority of health and safety. With a new COIVID-19 order released by the Provincial Government on August 24 that includes a mandatory indoor mask policy and the introduction of the BC Vaccine Card, the college is ready to welcome students back on September 7.
“The pandemic has been very hard on students and this return to in-person learning on our campuses is absolutely vital,” says Selkirk College President Angus Graeme. “The success and overall well-being of everyone involved in campus life is so closely connected to people learning together. We take the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases across the region and province very seriously. Our current updated protocols, our safety and infectious disease planning, and our considerable experience over the last 18 months provides us the confidence we need to make sure the upcoming semester will be a success.”
Selkirk College campuses and learning centres throughout the region will return to full in-person activity on September 7. Instructors and staff from a variety of different areas of the college gathered in front of the Castlegar Campus earlier this week in anticipation of welcoming students back to class.
Though the majority of educational programming shifted to virtual delivery during the previous academic year, Selkirk College successfully executed face-to-face learning in approximately 30 per cent of its courses. Through in-person, online and hybrid delivery models, in spring 2021 the college graduated more than 900 students with credentials across all program areas. As activity increases on campuses and learning centres in the coming weeks, Selkirk College will continue to monitor and adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation and apply best practices as directed by public health authorities.
Supporting the Direction of Health Leaders
Public health experts in British Columbia completely support the return to full on-campus instruction for post-secondary institutions. Experience over the last year has shown that educational activities supporting teaching, learning, research and student development are low risk sites for COVID-19 transmission including activities in classrooms, libraries, shops, labs, field schools and studios.
“Structured environments like classrooms were low risk settings for COVID-19 transmission even before vaccination. With the added protection of vaccination, the return of full in-class instruction is not only possible, but imperative,” says Dr. Reka Gustafson, Deputy Provincial Health Officer. “The approach that the colleges in British Columbia are taking is proportionate and inline with the recommendations of the Provincial Heath Officer and I am grateful to the colleges of British Columbia for continuing to support the education and well-being of their students.”
In-person learning will be taking place at all Selkirk College campuses and learning centres this fall with a mandatory mask policy in place to help add an extra layer of protection against the spread of infectious disease.
Research and teaching universities across the province are moving to a vaccination declaration program and rapid testing as a requirement to be on campus. Colleges operate differently from universities as they are considered more closely a part of the government under the Colleges & Institutes Act and so must follow the advice of the Provincial Health Officer.
“The direction from the Provincial Health Officer is clear that the way forward does not require us to mandate a vaccination declaration program or veer from the current order that is in place,” says Graeme. “We are following the science in our safety planning with the understanding that the pandemic continues to evolve. We encourage everybody in our campus community who is eligible and able to get the vaccine, but it is not a requirement to access core educational activities.”
Under the BC Vaccine Card program, those living in student housing are required to have proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination by September 7. On September 13, the BC Vaccine Card will go into effect across the province and requires proof of vaccination to access non-essential services such as restaurants, pubs, movie theatres, recreation facilities, indoor organized group gatherings and ticketed events.