In my last update in March, I shared details with you about our plans for the safe return to York’s campuses this fall based on public health and government guidelines. Faculties began the work of identifying priorities for in-person instruction based on an assumption of being able to utilize about 25 to 30 percent of our space.
Understanding the significant impact on our students, our goal has been to ensure that all students have access to some in-person instruction, while also being mindful of the needs of students who may still require remote access to courses. We also indicated that we would continue to closely monitor for any updates impacting the higher education sector. Over the past few weeks, a number of new developments have led to a more optimistic outlook for the Fall and Winter Terms.
While the current rate of COVID-19 infections in the Greater Toronto Area remains high, there are indications that the situation may significantly improve by September. The Provincial Government has announced an accelerated vaccine roll-out, which will expand eligibility to all members of the York community this month.
There is also a growing recognition that with continued stable vaccine supply, people may be able to access their second doses sooner. Health Canada has also approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 years and up, and there are indications that, pending review and approval, this could be expanded further to children aged 5 to 11 years old by the end of summer. In short, it is expected that more people will be fully vaccinated sooner over the summer months.
While we do not yet know exactly what the fall will look like, current guidelines indicate that it will be possible to significantly increase in-person learning and co-curricular opportunities on our campuses this fall. We are therefore preparing a more optimistic scenario with closer to 50 percent of courses being offered in-person, focusing on offerings for first- and second-year students, whose transition to university has been greatly impacted by this pandemic.
At the same time, we will continue to provide access to a high-quality remote learning experience for those who are not able to attend classes in person this fall. As always, the health and safety of our York community comes first, and we will continue to closely monitor the public health situation over the coming months to determine the best course of action for our community. We understand that everyone is eager for certainty. This updated plan is based on the most recent projections, and courses will shortly be uploaded for course registration this fall. We will also be able to plan for more staff, faculty, and instructors on our campuses as the situation improves, and we will regularly update you as plans evolve.
Based on the latest projections, we are preparing for a full return to our campuses for the Winter Term. In the coming weeks and months, we strongly encourage all members of the York community to get their COVID-19 vaccine at their earliest opportunity, to protect themselves and their families, loved ones, and colleagues as we look forward to coming together again.
We encourage you to join us at the Town Hall this Wednesday, May 12, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, where we will be able to answer your questions and discuss this outlook for the Fall and Winter Terms. I look forward to seeing you there, and will continue to keep you updated in the coming months as our planning continues.
President & Vice-Chancellor