Photo Credit: ProMedica
Concerns surrounding COVID-19 cause school cancellations
Chiara Greco, News Editor
As of March 13, University of Toronto (U of T) President Meric Gertler sent out a message announcing that U of T has “decided to cancel all in-person undergraduate and research-stream Master’s and Doctoral courses across U of T’s three campuses” due to concerns about COVID-19, the new strain of coronavirus. The decision will become effective Monday, March 16, and will continue until the end of classes on Friday, April 3. University operations across all three campuses will continue to remain open. While details and decisions are still ongoing, more information regarding exams and online classes will potentially be given in the coming days.
Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost, and Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research, Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, sent out a UTalert to students the previous day stating that, “We continue to monitor the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that you may be concerned, and we want to assure you that the university is actively planning for the possibility that the current pandemic may affect your studies and activities.”
On March 11, the university had issued an announcement which stated that doctor’s notes or medical certificates would no longer be required from students who missed class due to cold or flu-like symptoms, or due to self-isolation. Students were required to document their absences through ACORN in order for the university to provide academic accommodation and monitor absences — though many classes had individually removed penalization for missed lectures or tutorials. This was the first change in policy U of T addressed as a response to the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.
In the email announcing that change to students, Regehr and Goel made clear that they “[hoped] to be able to complete the term without disruption.” Though contingency plans had been made in case a full school shut down were to emerge, which it since has.
U of T has cancelled or postponed all discretionary events not required as part of course or academic requirements. In response to this, the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) has cancelled all student life events as well.
In terms of international travel, U of T has cancelled future university activity to international locations for all students until June 1, 2020. U of T is also working with students already abroad to support them in their decisions to stay at their locations or to return home.
From a wider perspective, growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in the Ministry of Education shutting down all publicly funded Ontario schools from March 14 to April 5. Laurentian University became the first Canadian university to cancel in-person classes due to COVID-19, with Western University following suit.