About

Stages of reopening are guided by Provincial recommendations and guidelines, but USask may decide to move more conservatively in some areas to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

USask is currently in Stage 4A of reopening.

To support the reopening implementation plan, a framework has been developed that outlines a staged return to all activity at the university including research, teaching and learning, and support service operations that must be conducted in university spaces, including our physical campuses and university-operated properties and sites. The framework applies to activities involving faculty, staff, and students as well as any contractors and given the broad range of university activity, will reference or highlight specific areas as needed.

The Framework speaks to varying activities undertaken:

References to teaching and learning are meant to include access to campus in order to develop learning resources (faculty, instructors, support staff). Within the domain of academic programming, the process for making decisions about which classes will be delivered remotely and what exceptions will be made for face-to-face delivery.

References to operations are meant to include operations, administration, capital projects and support services (in general). The term operations is used to cover a wide range of activities across colleges and administrative units.

As one exception to this Framework approach, research at field locations outside of our physical campuses and university-operated field sites continues to be subject to Field Work Expectations During the Pandemic, which continues to be updated as the situation evolves.

Stages

External Conditions

  • COVID-19 cases rising.
  • Ongoing concerns about PPE shortages.
  • Public health directives remain stringent.
  • University resources needed to support Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
  • Other universities continue to strictly limit on-campus research activity.
  • Caregiving services, including childcare centres, are not available.

Research Summary

  • Campus activity allowed for research on COVID-19, clinical care, and ongoing animal/plant/living organism studies.
  • Research activity allowed in other exceptional cases, as approved by deans and the VPR.
  • Strict expectations for health and safety plans, including minimum personnel, physical distancing, and disinfecting plans and training.

Operations Summary

Campus activity allowed to support essential operations related to:

  1. maintaining safety and security of campus infrastructure (heating plant, protective services), regulatory or financial requirements (waste disposal, stores, treasury).
  2. teaching, learning and student supports (residence, on-line instruction).
  3. research supports (COVID-19, clinical care, and ongoing animal/plant/living organism studies).

Activity allowed in exceptional cases, as approved by VPFR on advice from PRT. Strict expectations for health and safety plans, including minimum personnel, physical distancing, disinfecting plans and training, and exposure control plan.

Teaching and Learning Summary

  • Faculty and support staff involved in the development and delivery of the academic programming all working remotely.
  • Academic programs for spring and summer delivered remotely.
  • All student supports and services offered remotely.
  • Any incremental oncampus activity allowed in exceptional cases, as approved by the Provost on advice from PRT.
  • Strict expectations for health and safety plans, including minimum personnel, physical distancing, and disinfecting plans and training.

Preparations for next stage:

  • COVID-19 Safety Manual completed and available (including requirement for all faculty, instructors, staff, students, and contractors returning to campus to register for and complete the COVID-19 Health and Safety Course online, and incorporating clear information about the Occupational Health and Safety obligations and liability)
  • System established for screening and monitoring on-campus personnel for symptoms
  • Proper (necessary) PPE and other safety supplies not needed by the healthcare system are made available and personnel trained on proper use
  • Necessary operational staff and resources in place (e.g., Maintenance and Custodial; Facilities; Procurement; Safety)
  • Approved process in place for determining which activities can resume or begin
  • Approved process in place for determining which services and supports are required on campus in the next stage

External Conditions

  • COVID-19 cases within the province are low and largely flattened.
  • Sufficient PPE and other safety supplies available.
  • Public health directives remain stringent but do not explicitly impede or conflict with approved activities on campus proceeding.
  • University resources still needed to support SHA but not to the extent that some increased activity on campus will present problems.
  • Other universities moving in the direction of allowing more activity on campus.
  • Caregiving services, including childcare centres, remain largely unavailable.

Research Summary

  • Restriction on campus activity loosened to allow more time-sensitive and deadline-driven research, where continued delay jeopardizes viability of the research, but with significant ongoing limitations.
  • Priority given to graduate students and postdocs close to completing their degree or term of appointment.
  • Priority also given to projects involving funders (including industry partners) that have not granted leniency and whose end dates are within three months
  • If access to facilities (e.g., lab space) needs to be scheduled, consideration of primary caregiving responsibilities as well as individuals with disabilities who may require accommodations.
  • Some increased library research supports (e.g., the Library is working on a plan to provide access to physical materials, including the creation of procedures for contact-less pick-up of requested material and potentially a “scan-and-send” service for portions of books following fair dealing guidelines).
  • Researchers must be prepared for the need to modify, scale back or shut down, if needed.

Operations Summary

  • Restriction on campus activity loosened to allow more time-sensitive and deadline-driven operations, where continued delay jeopardizes viability or contractual obligations, but with significant ongoing limitation.
  • Consideration of supporting bookstore and retail service in accordance with Provincial timelines.
  • Priority also given to projects with contractual obligations or those that directly support the infrastructure for remote delivery.
  • Expanded on-campus safety resources to support preparations for increased on-site operations and conduct fire and life safety system equipment inspections.
  • Strict expectations for health and safety plans, including minimum personnel, physical distancing, and disinfecting plans and training and exposure control plan.

Teaching and Learning Summary

  • Restrictions on campus activity are loosened to allow for increased opportunities to visit campus (e.g., office, lab, classroom, studio) to develop learning resources that cannot be done remotely.
  • Access considered only for those preparing to teach classes in the fall of 2020 (includes faculty, postdocs, graduate students) where campus access is deemed essential, and access considered on a request/approval basis only for discrete visits
  • Access to physical library material (e.g., allowing faculty to order books and materials with contact-less pick up, “scan and send” service for portions of books following fair dealing guidelines).
  • Faculty and staff must be prepared for the need to modify, scale back or shut down, if needed.

Preparation for next stage:

  • System for screening and monitoring on-campus personnel for symptoms can be scaled up
  • PPE and other safety supplies are increasingly available
  • Approved process for determining services and supports needed in next stage updated and support/services (e.g., maintenance and custodial, student-focused, research-focused) have capacity to accommodate needs associated with increase campus activity in the next stage

External Conditions

  • COVID-19 cases in the province remain low.
  • Significant testing and identification of new cases, with appropriate self-isolation.
  • PPE and other safety supplies increasingly available.
  • Public health directives loosening somewhat more.
  • University resources still supporting SHA in some respects, but able to support increased activity on campus.
  • Caregiving services, including childcare centres, increasingly available. Other universities moving in the direction of allowing more activity.

Research Summary

  • Additional time-sensitive and deadline-driven research approved as circumstances allow for more on-campus activity.
  • Requested and approved access to office space to collect needed materials that enable continued remote work including research, scholarly, and artistic work. All such access handled within the provisions of appropriate physical distancing, disinfecting practices, and minimized exposure protocols.
  • If access to facilities (e.g., lab space) needs to be scheduled, consideration of primary caregiving responsibilities as well as individuals with disabilities who may require accommodations.
  • Researchers must be prepared for the need to modify, scale back or shut down, if needed.

Operations Summary

  • Activities approved that did not quite make the cut in stage 2 (similar decisionmaking guidance as #2, but with increased capacity compared to scenario #2).
  • Requested and approved access to office space to collect needed materials that enable continued remote work. All such access handled within the provisions of appropriate physical distancing, disinfecting practices, and minimized exposure protocols. 
  • Library providing services including contactless pickup of books along with scan and send or portions of print materials (chapters or articles) upon request.
  • Re-opening of some services with appropriate protocols such as physical distancing, disinfecting plans, exposure control plan and training.

Teaching and Learning Summary

  • Requested and approved access to office space to collect needed materials that enable continued remote preparation of fall delivery. In addition, opportunities to request and schedule access to campus spaces for the purposes of developing digital material for remote delivery in the fall (e.g., video capture of lab demonstrations). All such access handled within the provisions of appropriate physical distancing, disinfecting practices, and minimized exposure protocols. 
  • Library providing services including contactless pickup of books along with scan and send or portions of print materials (chapters or articles) upon request.
  • Faculty and staff must be prepared for the need to modify, scale back or shut down, if needed.

Preparation for next stage:

As we prepare for and move through a transitional Fall term (2021), we enter into a two-tiered Stage 4 that is guided by the following foundational priorities. We will: 

  • Continue to follow our key priority that “USask will not contribute to the pandemic.”
  • Continue to value and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our university community and will treat these elements as paramount in our planning.
  • Recognize the important benefits of an in-person learning environment to our students, and remain committed to reopening our campus in an intentional manner, to the greatest extent possible, in alignment with public health directives.
  • Ease back from universal adherence with “if it can be done remotely, it will/should be done remotely” – may be applied to certain groups for periods of time through a staged re-opening fall approach (where appropriate) as opposed to using it as, we have in the past as, a directive for ALL activity considerations.
  • Ensure required services and supports are co-ordinated and phased in appropriately (light dimmer switch) (e.g., maintenance and custodial, student-focused, research-focused, administrative-focused) and have capacity to accommodate needs associated with increased campus activity.

Stage 4 is divided into two tiers of planning and activity roll-out: 

  • 4A will encompass planning/activities that lead up to fall term. 
  • 4B will encompass transitional re-opening that leads to a fully open winter term (January 2022), when we expect normalcy in academic, research, administrative and operational activities. 

Planning/activities that lead up to fall term (September 2021)

External Conditions

  • COVID-19 cases in the province remain low enough to be managed by the health care system. Widespread testing and identification of new cases, with appropriate self-isolation.
  • Vaccination rolls out according to provincial targets within predicted or accelerated timelines.
  • PPE and other safety supplies widely available. Public health directives increasingly relaxed though precautionary measures remain (e.g., masks, continued distancing)
  • SHA/Sector/government/ partners work together to develop institutional re-opening plans
  • Childcare options available for parents.
  • Continued international travel restrictions anticipated but improvement demonstrated for the return of international students. Robust quarantine plan for the return of international students remains approved by provincial and federal governments and continues to function effectively.

Research Summary

  • Continued expansion of research activity on campus to now allow non-time sensitive research, while maintaining reduced in-person density, disinfecting practices, exposure control plans and training.
  • Researchers must be prepared for the need to modify, scale back or shut down, if needed.

Operations Summary

  • Continued expansion of operations on campus, while maintaining physical distancing, disinfecting plans, exposure control plan and training.
  • Work would continue to be a blend of remote and in-person. In-person activity would be prioritized to those that directly support the teaching/learning, research, and services happening in-person while other indirect support would continue remotely.

Teaching and Learning Summary

  • Continued expansion of teaching and learning activities on campus, while maintaining physical distancing and disinfecting practices.
  • Remote provision will be the norm for academic programming enabling access for international students or those wishing or needing to remain resident in communities without access to a physical USask campus.
  • Approval of in-person teaching and learning activities undertaken through consideration of learning outcomes and the extent to which in-person delivery is required to achieve learning outcomes.

Administrative Staff

  • Work would continue to be a blend of remote and in-person. In-person activity would be prioritized so those that support the teaching/learning, research, and services happening in-person while other indirect support would continue remotely.

Encompass transitional re-opening that leads to a fully open winter term (January 2022)

External Conditions

  • COVID-19 cases in the province remain low and managed by the health care system. Widespread testing and identification of new cases, with appropriate self-isolation.
  • Vaccination targets have been nearly achieved, and majority of population over the age of 18 have been fully vaccinated.
  • PPE and other safety supplies widely available.
  • Public health directives almost completely relaxed, with the removal of distancing measures. The use of masks remains in place.
  • SHA/Sector/government/ partners on-side for institutional re-opening implementation
  • Childcare options available for parents.
  • Continued international travel restrictions anticipated but improvement demonstrated for the return of international students Robust quarantine plan for the return of international students remains approved by provincial and federal governments and continues to function effectively.

Research Summary

  • Further expansion of research activity on campus, including accommodating more of those who researched remotely in earlier stages to make room for those who could not do their research in a remote fashion. All activity will adhere to public health and institutional policies and practices in place at the time.
  • Researchers must be prepared for the need to modify, scale back or shut down, if needed.

Operations Summary

  • Phased return of in-person operational support and services to expand (but still subject to health restrictions) while some activity while still in whole or in-part having remote operations. For example:
    • In-person dining
    • Recreational Facility/ Programming use
    • Retail Shopping
    • Expanded IT support presence
    • Expanded student support presence where needed

Teaching and Learning Summary

  • Teaching and Learning activities will still involve remote delivery along side a substantive increase in in-person offerings
  • Colleges and schools provided with planning parameters regarding use of space, maximum class size, and optimization of timetable and asked to develop a plan for their academic programming that significantly increases the proportion of in-person delivery and appropriately manages risk during the fall transition period.
  • Faculty and staff must be prepared with a contingency plan to handle unforeseen and short-term events (e.g., handful of students in a class must self-isolate for a period; instructor must self-isolate for a period)

Administrative Staff Summary

  • Phased increase of in-person administrative work while still maintaining some remote operations.

Preparedness for next stage

It is expected that when entering into Stage 5, normalcy in academic, research, administrative and operational activities will be achieved. We will:

  • Continue to follow our key priority that “USask will not contribute to the pandemic.”
  • Continue to value and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our university community and will treat these elements as paramount in our planning.
  • Recognize the important benefits of reopening our campus in an intentional manner, to the greatest extent possible, in alignment with public health directives.
  • Enter into the final stage for ALL activity considerations.
  • Ensure required services and supports are co-ordinated and phased in appropriately (dimmer switch) (e.g., maintenance and custodial, student-focused, research-focused, administrative-focused) and have capacity to accommodate needs associated with increased campus activity

External Conditions

  • Vaccine widely available/administered and used in combination with widespread testing and identification of new COVID-19 cases, with appropriate self-isolation.
  • SHA/Sector/government/ partners on-side regarding institutional re-opening plan
  • Full lifting of public health measures, including social distancing restrictions and mask use.
  • Full lifting of international travel restrictions.

Research Summary

  • All types of research allowed on campus.

Operations Summary

  • All types of work and activity allowed on campus.
  • Anticipate that some permanent remote work arrangements may be maintained where employee and operational needs can be accommodated

Teaching and Learning Summary

  • All types of on-campus teaching and learning activities allowed on campus.
  • Anticipated that some remote activities will continue (as we have always had on-line learning offerings) where demand exists and where pedagogical benefits can be realized.

Administrative Staff Summary

  • All types of on-campus adminstrative activities allowed on campus.
  • Anticipated that some remote activities will continue, but decision to do so is more from an operational lens than in response to the pandemic.

Goal and Principles

The goal is to keep everyone involved in university activity healthy and safe, while increasing activity in a staged approach as health and safety becomes easier to maintain.

We are guided by the principles that were developed early in the pandemic, embedded within planning documents, and used to guide the activities and decisions made thereafter.

Value, protect and support our people.

We will seek and implement the best guidance possible for the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and to ensure the return of people to campus will be done in a conscious, careful, and methodical way. We will strive to minimize financial hardship to employees when contemplating reward and employment strategies, and ensure that all legal and regulatory obligations are fully considered. We will be mindful of the financial challenges faced by our students brought on or exacerbated by pandemic circumstances. 

Deliver the academic and research mission of the University of Saskatchewan.

We continue our important academic, research, and community engagement work as the University the World Needs. Continually strive to facilitate as much core mission activity as possible to proceed without disruption, while respecting the necessary limits required by the evolving situation and understanding the potential to return to stricter limits should the situation require.

Support Student Success.

We prioritize students’ academic progress, provide them with the supports they need, and strive to minimize adverse impacts to their academic progress.

Ensure the University of Saskatchewan’s long-term excellence and financial sustainability. 

We are responsible not just for the university’s success today, but for its long-term sustainable future, and we will actively seek opportunities to improve the way we deliver on our mission. CoVID-19 is having a significant negative impact on the university’s financial situation on both a one-time basis and ongoing. Significant and immediate actions are required that support long-term cost reductions and revenue enhancements to protect the university’s longer-term financial sustainability and reputation.  

Engage and Contribute. 

We will effectively and tangibly contribute to the province’s efforts to respond to the rapidly shifting public-health situation and the province’s recovery, while also significantly contributing to global efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Acknowledge Impact. 

We recognize and appreciate that decisions the university makes, and the actions taken may have an impact on our external communities. We are committed to factoring that impact into the ongoing decision-making on our staged approach to increasing activity.  

Communicate and consult with our community.

We will share and seek input regarding our CoVID-19 status, plans, and actions around increased activity with internal and external stakeholders to ensure transparency and timeliness. 

Safe Return Transition Plan

USask's Pandemic Response and Recovery Team (PRT) has developed a Staged Transition to Increased On-Campus Activity Plan which provides the process for determining the details of a safe return to campus for Fall 2021.


Acknowledgments

The Framework approach has been developed alongside the Saskatchewan Re-Open plan. We gratefully acknowledge insights from many other institutions in shaping this framework, including other U15 institutions, the University of California system, the University of Washington, and King’s College London.

Questions?

Questions about the Framework can be sent to:
danette.stang@usask.ca