The following message was sent on August 3 to all Conestoga employees on behalf of President John Tibbits.
Conestoga’s leadership team has worked diligently to develop plans for the Fall 2021 semester in the effort to balance the safety and well-being of our college community with the desire to return to more in-person learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create a great deal of uncertainty given the emergence of new variants and the slowing of vaccine uptake.
Conestoga is committed to delivering the best possible education for all our students. This fall, we will gradually increase on-campus activity where it is safe to do so and in accordance with Public Health guidelines.
We will continue to deliver hands-on learning activities in our labs, shops and studios to ensure that students can successfully meet the requirements of their courses and programs.
Throughout the semester, we will gradually reopen in-person services to provide additional options for students.
Many theory-based courses will continue to be delivered remotely this fall. Our faculty and staff teams have made tremendous efforts to develop a positive and engaging experience for students engaged in remote learning. A full range of services and extracurricular activities delivered remotely augment in-class learning and provide students with a positive college experience despite pandemic restrictions.
While we look forward to having everyone back on campus as soon as it is safe to do so, the health and well-being of our students and employees will always be our top priority.
Conestoga has followed provincial and regional public health guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 16,000 students have participated in essential, on-campus learning activities since July 2020, with no evidence of COVID-19 transmission. Strict measures that include screening, social distancing, masking and sanitizing have been applied rigorously to protect the health of students and employees.
While recent case counts and improved vaccine access give cause for optimism, the pandemic is not over, and vaccination rates among the 18-29-year-old age group are relatively low. New and emerging variants are more transmissible than the original virus, while many have become less vigilant in following public health guidelines.
This fall, Conestoga’s full-time enrolment is expected to exceed 25,000 students. Under existing conditions, we cannot support a safe return to campus for all students and employees at this time.
We are hopeful that a higher percentage of our students and employees will be vaccinated by the start of the winter semester 2022, thereby allowing for fuller easing of restrictions and a return to full on-campus operations.
Increased vaccination uptake will allow us to increase on-campus activity. This fall, students living in residence or participating in varsity sports will require vaccinations. For the winter semester, Conestoga is considering a vaccine requirement for everyone learning or working on our campuses. On-campus vaccination clinics and campaigns to promote broader awareness will contribute to increased vaccine uptake across the college community.
Post-pandemic, Conestoga will have a significant role to play in rebuilding Ontario’s economy through education and applied research that will address workforce needs, support business recovery and provide opportunities for displaced workers to return to meaningful employment.
We will continue to focus on building capacity, advancing quality and enhancing sustainability as we work in collaboration with our partners to support learner success, economic development and the prosperity and well-being of the communities we serve.
Conestoga is well positioned to meet Canada’s future workforce needs due to our strong ties to employers, our high quality programming and our growing capacity as we expand our footprint across southwestern Ontario and develop more in-person and more remote and hybrid delivery models that will increase access to programming for diverse learner groups.