Since the university’s sudden closure in March, the biggest question on students’ minds has been, “what can I expect this fall?” With new COVID-19 guidelines to follow and personal health and safety to maintain, the thought of going back to school can be incredibly daunting for new and returning students alike.

To help students follow the safety guidelines laid out by the province and the university, U of T will provide students with two reusable, non-medical face masks. At UTM, all students living on residence will receive the masks in their welcome kit, and others can pick up their masks on campus starting September 8.

Though many classes will be administered online, some students may still need to be on campus to attend in-person classes. The university has implemented many new guidelines and policies to ensure students can live, study, and interact safely on campus. 

Foremost of these new regulations is the temporary policy regarding face coverings, which will be required indoors in all common-use spaces. Face coverings like face masks are especially crucial where social distancing may be difficult, such as classrooms, hallways, lobbies, and elevators. The university is also following Toronto’s bylaw allowing exceptions to face coverings due to underlying health conditions, provided they show proof.

It is important to note that the city bylaw is expected to expire in October, but there is no notice yet as to how this will affect the policies on campus. “We can’t speculate. Our first priority is the health and safety of our students, staff, faculty, and librarians. All our decision-making is predicated on this health and safety priority,” stated Jane Stirling, executive director of communications at UTM.

Another important safety measure at UTM is the implementation of physical distancing. The most obvious of these changes becomes clear when entering a classroom. Desks have been shrink-wrapped to maintain a two-metre distance between each student, making physical distancing measures evident for students and professors alike.

Common areas such as the Davis Meeting Place and building lobbies have also been reconfigured to abide by physical distancing measures. Floor markers and arrows are strategically placed to show students how to navigate common spaces, and furniture in these areas has also been rearranged to maximize space. 

To continue the enforcement of safety measures during the distribution of TCards, the university has introduced the MyPhoto system. MyPhoto allows students to upload their photos and schedule an online appointment to verify their personal information. Their physical TCard will then be available for pick-up two business days after their meeting.

With all these changes to keep in mind, many students will be wondering how other aspects of campus life will change. Yet, the most significant difference is that most classes will be moved online, and those that remain in-person will have scheduled attendance to ensure safety. Currently, there are four course delivery options: synchronous lectures with scheduled online attendance, asynchronous “on-demand” online classes without scheduled attendance, regular in-person classes, and lastly, a combination of both in-person and online lectures.

Students should keep in mind that every course is different, and how specific courses are delivered will be at the discretion of the instructor. However, students will still have options. “If a student is unable to participate fully in the course delivery model preferred by the instructor, we will work with the student to provide them with reasonable alternatives,” said Stirling.

In terms of university services, almost everything will be offered online. The Registrar’s office will be offering online appointments and extended online hours, as well as limited in-person meetings. The Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, the Career Centre, UTM’s Health and Counselling Centre, and the Centre for Student Engagement are all offering their services online.

Furthermore, Accessibility Services is among the few departments that will continue their work on an online platform. “Accessibility advising and support moved almost fully online this past spring and summer and will remain primarily online into the fall,” stated Stirling. 

“Test and exam accommodations will be determined by how individual instructors and courses offer their tests and exams,” continued Stirling. “The Accessibility Services department is working with students to understand and assist with individual disability-related issues, such as mask-related concerns for those who read lips or have respiratory issues.”

Lastly, access to the Recreation, Athletics & Wellness Centre will be restricted to members of the university community, which includes registered students, staff, and faculty, as is the case with all university buildings. RAWC programming will also emphasize adapted outdoor activities such as yoga, Pilates, and boot camps, as part of its plans for a safe and gradual return to campus. 

With the safety regulation changes and ever-pressing health concerns, returning to your studies can be an intimidating task. Still, UTM’s first and foremost goal in opening up campus is to make safety a priority.

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