A new normal on campus: BC's restart plan at UBC

On May 6, the BC government announced that it would be shifting the province back into some sense of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic in four phases, with phase two beginning following Victoria Day weekend. Here’s how the phases will look at UBC moving forward.

Phase two

In phase one, UBC's initial reaction to COVID-19 resulted in all in-person classes being transitioned to online, large gatherings banned and study abroad programs cancelled. This is where the province and university have been at since the ramping up of the outbreak in early/mid-March.

In phase two, UBC’s summer classes will remain entirely online but restaurants and cafés on campus will reopen, including the Nest, which reopened on May 20. The reopening of these facilities will ideally provide students with jobs they may have lost because of COVID-19.

Phase two also includes the reopening of libraries, museums and art galleries, though UBC President Santa Ono has yet to make an announcement on whether these facilities on campus will reopen after Victoria Day weekend. Ono announced in a broadcast that UBC is waiting to “receive information on the safe organizational practices, as approved by WorkSafe BC” and will update their plan accordingly.

“In parallel with these sector plans, UBC is developing an operational safety plan and approval process that faculties and administrative units will be required to complete before any changes can be made to the remote work arrangements currently in place,” Ono wrote in the broadcast.

Phase three

If cases of COVID-19 remain low through the remainder of May, phase three will likely be implemented by the province in early June and will extend through September. Phase three includes limited domestic travel, the opening of hotels and parks, and the reopening of public spaces that can adhere to physical distancing (like movie theatres). Post-secondary education is also included in this phase.

“BC will enter subsequent phases as transmission rates stay low and continue to decline,” Ono wrote.

Post-secondary institutions are expected to open in phase three, with the majority of UBC campus opening in September. However, most classes offered in the fall 2020 semester will be online courses with smaller, physically distanced classes being offered in-person so that the university is “adhering to physical distancing and other public health requirements,” Ono wrote.

To keep faculty and students safe throughout phase three, certain criteria will need to be followed, particularly with students returning to campus on a larger scale.

There will be guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone on campus, including a “routine daily screening for students, faculty and staff," frequent “environmental cleaning,” an explicit policy on not coming to class or participating in extracurriculars if you have symptoms, an increased use of online learning, and “early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days of international students.”

Phase four

Though some students will be returning to physical classes in phase three depending on the faculty they are in, events that normally happen in-person like first-week orientation are being transferred online.

Until phase four is viable — meaning there would need to be sufficient group immunity or a successful treatment or vaccine against COVID-19 — large-scale gatherings of students will not be possible. This includes sports games, first-year orientation and other large gatherings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

According to the provincial government, a timeline for phase four has yet to be determined.

Adapting to a new environment

From May through September and beyond, UBC students will have a university experience that is continuously adapting and shifting to reflect the transmission rate of COVID-19 in BC. AMS President Cole Evans says that the society is working to “create immersive and engaging digital experiences” for students so that events normally offered in-person can still be experienced digitally.

“It’s really our role as a student society to be creating engaging experiences for students and giving students a sense of campus community and we fully intend on executing that to our fullest capabilities,” he said.

Though most classes and events throughout phase three are being offered remotely, Evans says that students should not feel like they are missing out on the traditional university experience.

“They’re not losing out but rather they’re just a part of a different sort of experience.”