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U of T joins city's effort to achieve a gradual, safe approach to reopening Toronto

(photo by Diana Tyszko)

The University of Toronto will support its employees in working from home where possible until at least September as part of a collaborative effort, led by the City of Toronto, to achieve a gradual and safe reopening of the city’s workplaces.

U of T is one of several major employers working with the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild to achieve a phased-in return to work while adhering to public health guidelines.

The university also plans to work with the city towards recovering and rebuilding in the wake of COVID-19.

“As one of the region’s biggest employers, the University of Toronto has an important role to play in helping our community respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” U of T President Meric Gertler said. “One of the ways we can do this is by supporting our employees in working from their homes, where feasible, in order to help curb the spread of the virus.

“In addition, we are committed to working with local authorities to share our insights into how we can safely emerge from this difficult and unprecedented public health crisis.”

Other big employers supporting the city’s effort include other universities and colleges, banks, professional services firms and the Government of Ontario.

U of T’s plan to achieve a gradual and safe return to work is in keeping with its approach to academic activities on campus for the upcoming fall semester. In both cases, the university’s efforts are guided by three principles: promoting health and safety, advancing academic excellence and meeting the needs of the university community.

The university has announced that its fall semester will feature a blend of in-person and virtual learning opportunities in what will be a world-class academic experience that respects public health measures required by the evolving pandemic. New and returning students can expect to see smaller, on-campus seminars, classes and labs alongside larger online or remote classes and lectures, President Gertler said in a May 19 letter to the university community.

At the same time, U of T is in the process of resuming non-COVID-19 research with a phased-in approach. That includes adapting laboratory spaces to physical distancing requirements and leveraging virtual research opportunities where applicable. 

U of T has also developed (or is in the process of developing) guidelines for research activities, environmental health and safety, student experience, residences, libraries and athletics.

Toronto Mayor John Tory thanked U of T and other employers for their support of telecommuting and a gradual phasing-in of employees’ return, which he said will help reduce pressure on public transit and help businesses maintain physical distancing.

“As Toronto reopens more businesses, it is critical that we follow public health guidelines and return employees to the workplace in safe and manageable ways,” Tory said in a statement.