STM reopen its doors to students amidst pandemic

Spray bottles full of sanitizer are placed in front of a notice at the entrance of St. Thomas More’s student lounge, pictured September 18, 2020. THE SHEAF / Nicholas Saretzky

St. Thomas More College is reopening some areas, hoping to provide students support during the pandemic. 

On Sept. 8, STM opened their student lounge, cafeteria and library reading area for students. Students must wear masks in these spaces, except while eating, and practice social distancing at all times. Students must also book slots in advance to limit access to 30 students at a time and do contact tracing if need be.

Jacquie Berg, director of communications, marketing and student recruitment, says that the move aligns with the college’s focus as a Christian college in providing support to students.

“We’re looking at the needs [of students] and many reflected the desire to have … openings, to have some of this space and internet access,” Berg said.

“We felt this was a way we could complement the campus community with this opportunity to support U of S students.” 

Although STM is a federated college within the University of Saskatchewan, their administration is autonomous from the university itself. Due to this, STM can progress at a different speed of reopening, within provincial health guidelines, than the U of S. 

Derrin Raffey, STM’s chief financial officer and director of administration, says that there is a marked difference in the operations and the physical space of the U of S as opposed to that of STM. 

“You’ve got far more complex facilities, interconnected tunnels, a lot more cleaning regimen that needs to happen in the university buildings, in general,” Raffey said. “You would have a far more complex arrangement that you’d have to navigate, rather than our single contained building.”

Raffey calls the contrast between the U of S’ and STM’s reopening plans “an apples and oranges comparison.” He says that, when the COVID-19 lockdown occurred, the university “had far more complex problems on their hands.” 

“It was our opportunity to allow some students, limited number, to have access to that … physical space,” Raffey said.

For STM’s reopening framework, Raffey says that they are primarily following the provincial Re-open Saskatchewan Plan. Berg also mentions that STM has been closely working with the advanced education and health ministries throughout the pandemic. 

“We have our own framework [and] we’re currently in the second last phase of right now — the last phase being back to normal,” Raffey said. 

Raffey says that STM is “just trying to help out the campus community and do the best for students, considering what students pay for” while balancing the risks of the disease. 

“We are doing what we can, albeit small, within the campus community,” Raffey said.

Wardah Anwar | News Editor

Nicholas Saretzky

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STM reopen its doors to students amidst pandemic