The road to restarting is not only winding, it’s actually more than one road — and none of them are particularly well-signed.
That’s why within days of initially reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff and leadership at Pearson College UWC pivoted to strategy mode to understand how we can plan for what we know and what we don’t (yet) know about restarting for the coming school year. While several Pearson groups and individuals worked on a variety of topics to feed information to the in-house COVID-19 planning and restart group, leadership had regular working and information-sharing sessions with other UWC schools, participated in B.C. independent schools’ collectives and met with leading government education and public health officials.
In parallel with this information-gathering and evaluation process, the College initially identified three possible scenarios: worst case (no students on campus), best-case (all students on campus) and an optimistic model that reflected our understanding and projections for the new term beginning this August/September.
Last week, the College shared this positive look at our 2020-21 school year restart plans with returning and new incoming students and their families. This was a “point-in-time” check to reflect the reality that this is June and the new school year begins in the fourth week of August. While not a lengthy period, as the world has seen over the last few months, a lot can change over the course of several weeks and you must be alert and flexible to plan effectively during a pandemic.
The main theme of the College’s restart plan is that, with determination and optimism, we look forward to welcoming new and returning students on campus on 24 August for the 2020-21 school year. Pearson will have robust health and safety measures and procedures in place, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all students, rigorous training in these areas for all students, teachers, staff and residents and a regimen that, as much as possible, creates and preserves a protective “bubble” on campus to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
During the quarantine period, which would apply to all international and Canadian students, the College is planning a robust, supervised welcome and orientation program that aligns with our UWC approach to learning. Students’ physical health will be regularly monitored, and mental health supports will be in place.
“We recognize some students may face unavoidable delays in arriving on campus,” said President and Head Ty Pile. “With that in mind, the College will be prepared to offer online initial learning to those students absolutely unable to immediately travel.”
The College’s approach is reinforced by the Province of British Columbia’s effective handling of the pandemic. Led by Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, together with a proactive citizenry committed to “flattening the curve,” the province is showing promising results in managing the fight against COVID-19.
Island Health, the health region that includes Vancouver Island, where Pearson is located, reported that, as of 22 June, 131 cases had been identified since the beginning of the pandemic with only one new case identified in this region during the previous four weeks. Of these, 125 people have recovered and there is only a single active case. The BC Centre for Disease Control website provides an up-to-date look at the situation in the province shown by regions. The Government of B.C. announced that Phase 3 of the provincial Restart Plan would go into effect on 24 June which allows for further loosening of restrictions.
As with many things during this pandemic, there is an important caveat.
“I must emphasize that details…may change or be updated as factors such as the COVID-19 situation in various parts of the world, including our region, quarantine periods, visa availability, border openings and closings and access to international travel are revised by public health and government authorities between now and August,” noted Pile. “Like you, we wish we had all the answers but, also like you, we understand that flexibility and good will are important for all of us at this time.”
With incoming and returning students and their families, we also shared a Special Arrival Procedures for Fall 2020 with information about how and when students must arrive on campus in a way that permits us to maintain the highest safety standards for all students, staff and residents. Within the coming weeks, we will also share a full Pearson College UWC Restart Plan which will outline health and safety measures and procedures being put in place to do the best we can to ensure the campus is a safe living and working environment.
“We will keep everyone updated as we look forward to welcoming students to this year’s unique Pearson College UWC educational experience,” added Pile. “We are committed to do our utmost to maintain a safe and healthy environment on campus for all.”