USask still on track to open P.A. campus in September

Pandemic regulations mean fewer staff and students will be on campus and the grand opening will be pushed back, but nursing labs and dental clinic set to open

University of Saskatchewan president Peter Stoicheff poses in front of the future Prince Albert campus on May 8, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The University of Saskatchewan (USask)is postponing the big community celebration planned to celebrate the opening of the Prince Albert campus hub due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

The campus is still on track to be ready for this September. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, mass gatherings are limited and most of the university’s classes will be conducted remotely.

That doesn’t mean the new campus will be empty, though.

“The doors will not be thrown wide open in September,” said Patty McDougall, the university’s vice provost of teaching, learning and student experience.

“We will have some restricted use. We’re planning for some limited, in-person delivery for our nursing students.”

Lab work and clinical skill development will be going ahead, McDougall said, but everything else, such as lectures, will be done remotely.

There will also be fewer staff members than originally planned, as everything that can be done remotely will be.

“We are subject to all public health guidelines. We will ensure that we have the appropriate approvals to do that in-person work,” McDougall said.

“We’ll need some staff in place to support the delivery of any of the in-person work for which we have approval in our nursing program. But other colleagues will do their work remotely.”

Nursing students won’t be the only ones coming to the new building in the fall.

The university is opening up a four-chair dental clinic for fourth-year dental students to work on members of the community.

“Given the impact of the virus and the resulting changes to how dentistry is practiced, we were able to get in at a good time to make those changes. Our clinic will be in compliance and operational with all health guidelines,” McDougall said.

The clinic is set for a late September, early October start.

“The renovations are really coming along nicely, so we’re on schedule in that regard, which is excellent,” McDougall said.

“We look forward to taking up our hub residency in Prince Albert. We have been in Prince Albert for many decades.”

A community celebration will be held when it’s safe to do so, McDougall added.

The university purchased its downtown hub location, formerly known as the Forest Centre, from the provincial government in March of 2018.

The two-story, 110,000-square-foot building was built in 2003, sits on 2.39 acres and is LEED (leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified. It was formerly owned and managed by the Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation (SOCO).

The building was originally designed to be a centre of excellence for forestry, but that vision never came to fruition.

 Since purchasing the building, the university has been renovating the inside to add classroom and lab space, along with the new dentistry clinic.

The campus is designed to bring together programming that has been taken place across the city at rented locations, including at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

The university hopes the new campus will allow them to expand the classes offered in the city.