Tertiary institutions prepare for Level 4

University of Otago emergency and business continuity co-ordinator Andrew Ferguson discusses the university’s readiness to move to Alert Level 4 for Covid-19. Photo: Peter McIntosh
University of Otago emergency and business continuity co-ordinator Andrew Ferguson discusses the university’s readiness to move to Alert Level 4 for Covid-19. Photo: Peter McIntosh
By the end of today an estimated 95% of University of Otago staff will be working from home as the facility prepares for the nationwide lockdown.

Coursework was also being rushed online as the university dealt with an advance to Level 4 alert status sooner than it expected, university emergency and business continuity co-ordinator Andrew Ferguson said yesterday afternoon.

Over the next few weeks the university would put in place what was required for the institution to keep operating while Dunedin was locked down.

‘‘Basically, we’re here for the long haul and whatever the regulations are, or the requirements, we’ll work to those,’’ Mr Ferguson said.

‘‘As of Wednesday night staff associated with Student Health, the colleges, some essential trades staff that have responsibilities to maintain buildings if there’s an issue — but basically every other staff member will be working from home.’’

Dunedin Airport was flooded with students yesterday trying to get home before 11.59pm today, and Mr Ferguson could not say how many remained on campus, but staged meals at colleges, support services online, and a continuation of an albeit smaller Campus Watch were among the services that remained.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced yesterday afternoon the deadline for getting home on domestic flights, trains and Cook Strait ferries had been extended until midnight on Friday.

‘‘We have told students that our colleges are open, if they want to they can remain in our colleges. We’ll have all the support in there, in place for them,’’ Mr Ferguson said.

‘‘If they want to travel, that’s entirely up to them. But we are set, ready to look after our students in the colleges and also in the university flats and others as well.’’

He expressed concern that some students living in flats could be congregating in groups and urged those that lived by themselves to stay in self-isolation and communicate with others while maintaining an appropriate physical distance.

He said the university was being as ‘‘flexible as we can be’’ in terms of students’ ongoing academic requirements.

The hope was 100-level papers would be online by the end of this week — and others next week.

‘‘However, with the staging to Level 3 and Level 4 being sooner than we expected, there may be some delay. But we’ll get that out as soon as we can.’’

Otago Polytechnic deputy chief executive Megan Gibbons said it would close from 5pm yesterday.

Student access to facilities at its three campuses — Dunedin, Central Otago and Auckland International Campus — would stop from then and polytechnic holidays would be brought forward, effective from tomorrow.

Teaching would recommence after Easter, beginning on April 15 and would be delivered online by Otago Polytechnic academic staff.

In the meantime, its support functions would continue to operate to ensure continuity of core business, with professional services immediately moving to a work-from-home model.

The polytechnic’s pastoral care and student support services included emergency contacts, online counselling, online IT support and financial assistance.

‘‘The safety of our staff and our learners remains our top priority.’’

Senior leaders would meet online each day and regularly update staff and students.


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