With the beginning of the school year in sight, it’s clear that things will look different this year for post-secondary students. With change comes innovation and resilience. As Ontarians are deep into an ever-shifting ‘new normal’, there is an opportunity to persevere over the circumstances created by COVID-19.
At least that’s how Sault College sees it as the Sault Ste. Marie-based school prepares to open its doors to new and returning students in September.
“Like most organizations, Sault College has had to adapt its operations to address the current situation,” says Mark Caruso, Manager, Maintenance Operations. “The college continues to be proactive and flexible in its approach and has implemented several upgrades following the directions and guidelines of medical officers and public health agencies.”
Sault College looks to Algoma Public Health (APH) for their local source for public health guidance and reliable up-to-date COVID-19 information.
“Sault College has worked closely with APH to prioritize the health and safety for anyone permitted to enter the campus while creating an environment where students can succeed as they prepare to enter the workforce.”
As the research and science of COVID-19 evolves, Sault College has remained in close communication with APH to ensure the current best practices are used and adapted in the school setting," says Gary Leith, Public Health Inspector at Algoma Public Health.
What exactly does this mean for students this fall?
The College says the primary focus will remain on the health and safety of students, staff and the community but they are also viewing this as an opportunity to showcase innovations in program delivery.
“Our teams have developed new and innovative ways to deliver programs that will still allow a high level of student engagement,” says Colin Kirkwood, Vice President, Academic and Research. “Through our remote delivery model, students will learn, collaborate and be part of an online classroom, not an online class. Faculty will be available to students in real-time during class and at other dedicated times.”
“Our goal is for students to have the tools needed to accomplish course learning outcomes and succeed.”
In addition to program delivery, the college has taken steps to implement precautions and safeguards including enhanced cleaning, physical distancing strategies, the use of PPE, implementing new technologies to minimize physical touchpoints and designing safer spaces for classrooms and labs.
Life off-campus offering up a big bonus for Sault College’s new and returning students
As a community of 73,000 with a population density of 328 people per square kilometre (a stark contrast to Toronto which has a population density of over 4330 people per square kilometre) Sault Ste. Marie offers up all the amenities of a larger Canadian city, with the safety of a smaller one.
And this is a big bonus for new and returning students amid the challenges of social distancing COVID-19 presents.
“We are fortunate in Sault Ste. Marie to have beautiful outdoor spaces to explore mere steps from our homes, local campuses and businesses,” says Travis Anderson, Director of Tourism and Community Development for the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
“Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is at our doorstep. We have hundreds of thousands of acres of stunning landscapes that are home to world-class hiking and biking trail systems, ski trails, beaches, campsites, fishing spots and more. And this is both in and outside of city limits. It is not difficult to social distance in Ontario’s backcountry. In fact, most people welcome the opportunity to discover what our region has to offer.”
“Sault College had a great reputation for the program I was interested in. That’s what initially drew me to the college and to Sault Ste. Marie,” says Joel Wenham, Georgetown Ontario transplant and graduate of Sault College’s Adventure Recreation and Parks Technician program. “But then I fell in love with the area and decided to call Sault Ste. Marie home after I graduated. This community has a lot of beautiful wide-open spaces but it’s also very tight-knit. I’ve never experienced that anywhere else.”
Sault College continues to work closely with Algoma Public Health to ensure the appropriate measures are taken to ensure the safety of students and staff. For more information on how Sault College is delivering an education that is unchanged, visit fall.saultcollege.ca.