In an email sent to all Conestoga employees on August 17, President John Tibbits announced plans regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition for those participating in on-campus learning, teaching or working.
It is strongly encouraged that all members of the Conestoga community get vaccinated as soon as possible if they have not already. The college is working on implementing a vaccine mandate for winter 2022. As previously announced, however, students living in residence or participating in varsity sports in fall 2021 will need to be fully vaccinated.
Implementing a robust vaccine mandate that will allow the college to return to more normal operations will take some time. It is anticipated that a vaccine requirement for all students, employees and visitors to Conestoga campuses and sites will be fully implemented by January 2022. In the interim, Conestoga will continue to follow Public Health guidance and advice to keep campuses safe for those participating in essential on-campus activities.
The following message was sent on August 17 to all Conestoga employees on behalf of President John Tibbits.
Over the last week, you have no doubt become aware of announcements from an increasing number of organizations, including post-secondary institutions here in our community, regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition for those returning to school or work this fall.
I am contacting you today to provide clarification regarding Conestoga’s plans, so that you will know what to expect in the days, weeks and months ahead.
At Conestoga, we agree in principle with the idea of mandatory vaccines to help quell the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is our best defense against this insidious virus that has infected more than 200 million people worldwide, killed more than 4.3 million, and devastated countless families and businesses.
Ontario’s public health experts indicate that a very high level of full vaccination, perhaps exceeding 90 per cent, will be required to achieve herd immunity given the growing number of COVID variants and the potential for breakthrough cases. As vaccine uptake has slowed across the province in recent weeks, it has become clear that additional measures will be required to achieve the levels needed for the removal of public health restrictions.
However, implementing a robust vaccine mandate that will allow the college to return to more normal operations will take some time. With September just a couple of weeks away, it is unrealistic to restrict campus access in the fall term only to those who have been fully vaccinated. Students and employees who are required to be on-campus to participate in essential learning activities need fair notice and a sufficient window of time to adapt to new expectations or make alternative arrangements.
For the fall semester, students living in residence or participating in varsity sports will need to be fully vaccinated. We will continue to work hard to keep our campuses safe for all students, employees and visitors, and follow the guidance and advice provided through our Public Health experts, just as we have since re-opening for essential learning activities in July 2020.
At this time, we anticipate Conestoga’s vaccine requirement for all students, employees and visitors on our campuses will be fully implemented by January 2022, when we hope to fully re-open and deliver a near-normal college experience for students within a safe and healthy environment.
I am tremendously proud of the successes we have achieved to date. More than 16,000 students have been engaged in on-campus learning activities over the last 12 months, with no transmission of the virus. Our academic and services teams have excelled in creating positive and engaging remote experiences for our students learning from home, whether here in the community or from across the world.
Academic delivery plans previously announced for Fall 2021 will remain unchanged, with many students and employees continuing to learn and work remotely. We will gradually increase the availability of on-campus, in-person services and activities through the fall semester as conditions allow.
Every day, I hear from our students and their family members about the challenges of learning in isolation. They want - and deserve - a full college experience, where they can interact face-to-face with their classmates, peers and faculty, and participate in the activities that traditionally define college life.
Although Conestoga’s vaccine mandate will not take effect immediately, I urge you to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible if you have not already done so. It’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and friends, and your community as we work towards re-opening and returning to more normal life after almost 17 months of lockdowns, outbreaks and restrictions to our daily activities.
Public health experts have confirmed that Ontario has now entered a fourth wave of the pandemic, with case rates and hospitalizations rising, in large part the result of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Waterloo Region, home to most of our campuses, continues to be a provincial hot spot for COVID-19.
As schools re-open, social interaction increases, and cooler weather drives people to spend more time indoors, experts predict that cases will continue to rise. The best defence to protect our community and prevent future lockdowns is to increase levels of vaccination, continue to follow public health guidelines and stop the spread of the virus.
More details regarding Conestoga’s vaccination requirements and expectations will be shared in the near future. In the interim, please get your vaccines if you have not already done so. Vaccines are now available on-campus at Doon by appointment as well as through clinics, pharmacies and health care providers throughout the region. For more information or to find a clinic near you, visit Waterloo Region Public Health or contact the Public Health unit in your community.
Thank you for your continued commitment and hard work in supporting students and the college through these challenging times.
John Tibbits, President