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quarientation_student arrivals

At Pearson this summer, we added a new word to our lexicon: “Quarientation.”

We like the word; in our more confident moments, we think it’s a witty and a bit wry. We know its etymology (Quarantine + Orientation = Quarientation), but we are really hoping it’s not a word we have to use next year or the year after that.

Quarientation is our take on ensuring health, safety and support for returning and new students during what is normally the pre-school year orientation period. This unique, entirely-online Quarientation is going on right now – between August 24 and September 7 – and involves all of our students, including those self-isolating at an off-campus location in the Victoria region and those from around the world who are not immediately able to come to Canada.

In strict alignment with, and in some cases, even beyond public health guidelines and restrictions, Years 46 and 47 students who came to Victoria were picked up in Pearson and contracted buses and other campus vehicles (modified to ensure physical distancing) at the airport and ferry terminal and are currently self-isolating in single-room accommodations with supervision from Pearson adult staff and faculty onsite. As per public health regulations for all overseas travellers to British Columbia, students are obliged to remain in their rooms for the full two weeks.

Quarientation includes all returning and new Canadian students, no matter how they arrive on Vancouver Island. This ensures fairness and equity and allows all students to take part in the orientation and community-building program. Quarientation also reassures students’ families, campus residents and workers and surrounding communities that required measures to protect people are in place.

A unique twist this year will be the presence at Pearson of some Canadian students originally selected to attend one of the 17 other UWC schools. To ensure that as many students as possible could receive an on-campus United World College experience this year, UWC schools collaborated with each other and the UWC international office to accommodate several students at a “local” school such as Pearson who, due to travel and border restrictions could not go to their designated UWC.

When students return to the Pearson campus, or arrive for the first time, they will experience the unchanged beauty of a natural, west coast rainforest environment on the unceded territory of the Sc’ianew First Nation as well as an educational institution that has implemented protocols and protective measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Faculty and staff from across Pearson, together with our food services and housekeeping contractors, have worked together and in specific, purpose-driven groups to create a safe and welcoming setting.

Protective measures and directive or informative signage will be all over campus, particularly in all buildings that students or workers access. Protocols will be in place to avoid crowding in common areas and much thought has been given to how physically-distanced classrooms and labs will be set up and how teachers and students will safely interact within these spaces.

Of course, Pearson’s approach to experiential education means that we consider any place a learning space so students can expect more outdoor “classrooms” and that larger indoor areas, such as the McConnell Theatre in the Max Bell Centre and the Ann and Tony Macoun “Little Lecture Theatre,” will be repurposed more often as learning spaces than “event” spaces.

On campus, daily self-health checks, reported to the Campus Health Centre every morning, will be mandatory for all students and workers. There will be fewer administrative staff on campus at any one time as we reduce our daily personnel “footprint” by supporting opportunities to work from home. Masks or face shields will become common when moving between rooms and buildings and whenever physical distancing is not possible in meetings and classes.

A student showing symptoms of COVID-19 will enter a supervised, self-isolation area on campus where their health will be monitored and a test for the virus administered. They will remain in isolation for at least 10 days from the first onset of symptoms. If they test positive for COVID-19 they will be moved to a quarantine ward on campus and public/regional health and parents/guardians will be notified.

A positive case will also trigger contact tracing and health and safety measures in the student’s residence and in any other location deemed necessary. The Health Centre will work with public health authorities which will determine if any additional measures are subsequently necessary.

Any student placed in isolation or quarantine will continue to receive full health and academic support.

“Our overriding priority is to support the well-being, mental health and the educational experience for new and returning students who have already encountered huge challenges this year,” noted President and Head Craig Davis during a recent virtual meeting with all staff and faculty.

Davis added the focus this year would be on actions that echo UWC values such as, “compassion and commitment to our community, mutually supportive approaches, setting personal examples and acting with integrity and accountability.

“So how do we do this effectively? Well, we need to follow the protocols and plans…as well as adopting collective community vigilance in helping us all, especially our students, adapt to these new normalities,” he noted. “We all have to play our part in that.”

Davis added, in a message he will echo during upcoming one-to-one meetings with each and every student, that this period of pandemic “doomscrolling” must also encompass balance and realism.

“Given the year we are having it is to also understand well-being and perspective. You might think this is an odd area to encourage as part of a college action plan rolled out during the global pandemic. However, waking up every morning to newsfeeds that have never ending ‘horror’ reminds me that we need to encourage humor, social opportunities, optimism and friendship to cut through the COVID claustrophobia.”

“A good dose of perspective can go a long way in helping our students and ourselves.”