How Canada’s Universities & Colleges Are Handling The Fall Semester

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Last summer, Zoë Chivers and her parents filled their car with suitcases and boxes of her belongings and drove from their Richmond Hill home, just north of Toronto, to Kingston, ON. to settle her in for her first year at Queen’s University.
Soon, the Chivers will be making the same trek. But this time, no classes and tutorials or parties and football games await the second-year student. Like many colleges and universities across Canada, Queen’s fall semester has shifted mostly online because of COVID-19. Once school starts, Chivers’ agenda will consist mostly of virtual lectures and hangouts with her bubble of four housemates. Even Queen’s Frosh Week is online — Chivers has volunteered to welcome new students via Zoom. 
“I’m nervous; it’s going to be a weird atmosphere,” says the 18-year-old, who had already signed a lease pre-COVID and, as a biochemistry major, needs to be in Kingston in case labs start up. “Nobody thought that first year would [finish] online. Nobody thought that we were going to be stuck in quarantine for months on end.”
And nobody seems to know just how long COVID-19 safety measures will last for the some two million students currently enrolled in colleges and universities in Canada. Campuses across the country are taking different precautions based on everything from location (a school in a COVID hotspot might be less likely to open up than one in a small town with fewer cases) to technical capacities (do they have the infrastructure to support online learning), according to Colin Furness, an assistant professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.
Centennial College in Toronto, for example, will require students to show confirmation that they have passed a pre-screening health assessment every single day they are on campus. Other schools, like McMaster University in Hamilton, are sticking to mostly virtual learning for the time being.
Across the board, schools have amped up safety precautions for students and faculty alike. Masks are now mandatory on most campuses and many in-person hangout spots (the library, the students centre, etc. if they are open) as well as classes (if they are running) will be physically distanced, necessary precautions especially with fears about the second wave this fall. “My own speculation is that the winter will be less safe than the fall, as the onset of flu season will produce a second wave sometime in late October or November,” Furness tells Refinery29. “[The idea is to] hope for the best but plan for the worst. U of T may be hoping to come back in person in the winter, but it is not depending on it. If community spread rises, it can and will simply continue on a remote basis.”
Here’s how universities and colleges across Canada are handling the fall semester, including which schools will open and which will stay virtual.


British Columbia





Newfoundland and Labrador

Prince Edward Island

Nova Scotia


New Brunswick

Yukon, Northwest Territories & Nunavut

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