Universities encourage students not to travel during reading week

By Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press

Several Ontario universities are urging students living on campus not to travel during the upcoming mid-semester break known as reading week in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While most university students are attending classes virtually as the pandemic wears on, a number of students who require access to campus services have been staying at student residences.

The University of Guelph, for example, has 840 people living at its on-campus residences this semester.

The university told those students to restrict non-essential travel during next week’s break.

“Travel during the pandemic poses a significant health and safety risk to our student residence community and to those you spend time with while you are away,” its student housing services said in a letter.

RELATED: Ontario schools to reopen next week; Toronto, Peel, and York to resume in-person learning Feb. 16

Students who do choose to travel should let the department know before they leave and isolate for 14 days upon their return, a period during which they are to remain in their room, not attend in-person classes, and will have food delivered, the university said.

“This situation is not easy but making safe choices now can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid further outbreaks,” it said.

Meanwhile, students in University of Toronto residences received a note strongly discouraging them from travelling during the week-long break.

The University of Waterloo also sent a similar message to its students about travelling during reading week.

“If you must travel home for the break, consider a self-quarantine or reducing close contact with others, 10 to 14 days before travel. You should do the same before coming back to Waterloo,” said the university’s president, Feridun Hamdullahpur.

Some in-person classes will resume at the university after reading week if the province’s stay-at-home order gets lifted in the region on Feb. 22 as planned, said the university.

“I understand, many of us feel fed up and tired of these restrictions,” Hamdullahpur said. “But unnecessary travel will put people at risk and we must not let our guard down.”

Ontario’s education minister is expected to announce today whether March break will be cancelled for the province’s schools.

Stephen Lecce will make an announcement at 2 p.m. with the health minister and the province’s top doctor.

The province’s largest teachers’ union has called on the government to keep March break in place, saying students, families, and teachers need the time off.

Schools across Ontario, except those in three Greater Toronto Area hot spots, have resumed in-person learning after a stretch of online classes.

Students in Toronto, Peel Region, and York Region return to physical classrooms on Feb. 16.

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