Post-secondary students in Ontario are calling for more clarity and adequate funding to ensure all campuses are safe for everyone returning to school.
As the province plans to reopen colleges and universities in fall, Ontario’s own Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, expects case numbers to surge again. Modelling data from the science table predicts a rise in cases as the colder weather moves people indoors.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, a recent memo from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) provides only vague safety recommendations while announcing there will be no capacity limits for classes or physical distancing requirements for students.
As the student organization states, “recent studies have shown that the airborne transmission of COVID-19 poses an acute risk, but the provincial government has done little to ensure ventilation systems are adequate and public health policies reflect this information.”
The Ministry memo fails to include any mention of ventilation systems. Some pertinent information needed includes: the filtration level being achieved in each building; assessments of each space students will be occupying; that ventilation standards are being accessed and recorded in all occupied spaces and meet legal requirements; and that compliance is being monitored.
“Packing students into classrooms without adequate ventilation and distancing protocols is a recipe for disaster,” highlighted Michael Butler, government relations and policy coordinator, Canadian Federation of Students Ontario.
Policies for rapid antigen testing for routine screening of asymptomatic individuals also fall short on providing clarity and much needed mandates.
“At this point it looks like there is no clear plan for students returning back to school in the fall,” says Kayla Weiler, national executive representative, Canadian Federation of Students Ontario. “It is a disorganized patchwork across the province of different institutions with different policies.
“As students attempt to plan their travel, look for accommodations and pick classes, they need clarity and knowledge that their safety is being ensured for returning to in person classes.”
Students across the province have also expressed additional concerns. There are concerns that the quality of education under this plan will be negatively affected with many institutions implementing a hybrid delivery model of instruction.
Other crucial factors include clarity for international students attending post-secondary institutions and mental health concerns, which remain a major issue due to a lack of mental health services both on and off campus.
An updated “Postsecondary Education Public Health Measures Framework” is expected from the government come August. The hope is that this framework will address many of current gaps expected to jeopardize student safety in the fall.