The following are the safety precautions that we as a campus ministry are taking as we move forward with meeting together for GCF. The plan for WBB will be similar but will be updated as we finalize the location.
Plan for GCF Gatherings at the Toronto School of Theology Building (starting September 8)
Purpose: The purpose of this plan is to outline the Graduate Christian Fellowship’s (GCF) plan to meet safely and in accordance with common sense policies at St. Michael’s College.
Persons Affected: All staff and students involved in the program.
Plan Directives: Over the past two years of COVID-19, the GCF community has been blessed to have had no spreader events in its community. We thank God, as well as all of the students, staff, and other attendees for their care in this matter and continue to uphold our priority of safety for our students, staff, and the people who live and work in the places which we meet.
In addition to balancing COVID-19 safety, we recognize the mental health toll and isolation of the pandemic, and the importance to student well-being of meeting in community to be supported in their faith and academic studies. It is thus important for us to be able to provide students a safe environment to meet.
The following outlines the plan and procedures to be undertaken by the GCF group when meeting in the St. Michael’s College location in the Toronto School of Theology building.
1) Student Consultations: During the course of the pandemic, students have been consistently consulted as to their comfort levels with the Ministry’s COVID-19 guidelines. This has included both group discussion and anonymous surveys. The following procedures have been developed based on these consultations.
As we enter the new semester, staff will undertake an additional round of consults to ensure that students continue to feel comfortable and will strengthen these policies if required to ensure student comfort.
2) Vaccination Policy: Attendance at GCF requires that students and staff provide proof of at least two vaccinations, in accordance with Federal Health guidelines and as is expected of all students and employees of St Michael’s. Vaccination status can be sent to staff in advance of meetings or, for new attendees, staff will check at the door for proof of vaccination. Staff vaccinations will be confirmed with the overseeing board and The Chair.
Students and staff should not attend GCF in person if they feel unwell, but should consider virtual options.
3) Masking Policy: Masking will be mandatory for the group meeting portion of all indoor GCF gatherings, when the group will be in one room, and staff will be watching to ensure that attendees align with this policy. While masks may be quickly removed for activities such as drinking, it is the expectation that they be immediately replaced and that masks are properly worn.
If someone is speaking to the group, they can take off their mask temporarily provided that there is significant space for social distancing (at least two meters of space) between them and other people outside of their household.
Medical masks, being the masks recommended by the University of Toronto, will be made available to all those attending the gathering.
4) Social Distancing: Attendees will be asked to social distance as much as is possible in the space provided. This rule will not be required for those who live in the same house, allowing attendees to “group” and increasingly the overall space between COVID-19 “bubbles”.
5) Remote Attendance: Where technologically possible, GCF will offer a hybrid attendance model where attendees can either attend in-person or via Zoom (or similar technology platform). In this way, we can reach more students, ensure that everyone can attend via the option most comfortable for them and their current health situation, and reduce the number of in-person attendees to safe levels. GCF has been piloting this model over COVID-19 to great success.
6) Capacity: Given the nature of the program, total capacity is expected to change on a week-by-week basis. While 2022/23 numbers are still unknown, last year, GCF saw an average of 13 in-person attendees (including staff), with a maximum in-person attendance of 17 people.
As the numbers for this year become known, GCF will use common sense to make plans as necessary to ensure that numbers stay below a safe threshold, as determined by the ministry, the students, our host location, and health guidelines. For example, as of the current situation in August 2022, any time we anticipate having more than 20 in-person attendees (or 15 households, whichever is smaller), we will not meet in the TST boardrooms but instead find an alternate space.
7) Community Dinner: Eating together is integral to Christian community, and we plan to continue it this fall with appropriate safety measures. For those students who wish to join for the simple community dinner at 6 pm before the main meeting, masks will be required at all times except when eating. Participants will be encouraged to spread out in the boardroom(s) and the TST kitchen/dining area (or outside on the TST grounds or in Queen’s park if students wish), to ensure social distancing while eating. Hand sanitizer will be available and required to be used before handling food. As the meetings are held on Thursday evenings outside of regular working hours, we anticipate little to no interaction with people working in the TST building.
Those who prefer not to eat with others at this time have the options to come at 7pm when the meal is completed. We will ensure all are masked in time for the program in the boardroom. We will monitor the number and processes for eating together safely, and will respond as needed. In terms of capacity, last year, we had about 5-12 attendees for dinner beforehand. Attendance at the dinner this year will be capped to as many people as we can socially distance for (outside of households/bubbles).
8) Reporting: Staff will report on the efficacy of these plans and COVID-19 in our communities at all of the board meetings. This will allow the board to be responsive to the needs of the community and update these plans as necessary.
Attendance will be taken for each evening and contact information will be secured for all in-person attendees. All those attending are asked to report to the staff as soon as possible if they were unknowingly exposed to COVID within 72 hours before attending in-person or if they develop COVID symptoms within 72 hours after attending or test positive. The staff will then follow up with others who may have been exposed.
9) Publicizing these guidelines These guidelines will be made available to people via the ministry’s website (http://crc.sa.utoronto.ca/) and will be included via a link in all emails inviting people to attend in-person ministry events.