Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper Update Regarding 2020 Fall Semester Planning

Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper updates the campus community regarding the ongoing planning for the 2020 fall semester.
 

Dear colleagues,

The opening of this academic year will be different than any other in our history, but the constant will be our shared commitment to our Humanics philosophy, which calls for educating students in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others. Equally important now is following a science-based public health plan to keep our community safe. The past several months have required us all to adapt to uncertainty, absorb ambiguity, and adopt sound precautionary habits.

The entire community has responded extraordinarily to the challenges we are facing. Your hard work, devotion, and creativity have ensured that our students will continue to receive a recognizably Springfield College education. Planning for the fall semester began in March and includes Springfield College faculty who are experts in public health so our decisions could be informed by the best information available at the time. As you know from your own consumption of information about this pandemic, ambiguity is high and the guidance changes regularly.

As you read through the plan that follows, know that none of these decisions were easy, but, based on what we know today, they are right for Springfield College. Our ability to successfully return to campus and to maintain the health and safety of the entire community is dependent upon a shared responsibility to adhere to these guidelines and work together to help us adapt to these still new norms. Of this, I am quite confident in our community. This will now be an integral part of our campus life, just like not walking on the grass. To this end, all students will receive the Springfield College Community Agreement to affirm their commitment to follow these behavioral expectations. A copy of that agreement follows the plan.

Despite all of our planning, what I know for sure is that this plan is not final and it is not complete. Our plan reflects the current guidance, including restrictions set by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We will adjust these plans as necessary based on the prevailing guidance of state and federal authorities. As updates are available, I will be in contact with our faculty, staff, students and their families to keep all informed.

My sincere thanks go out to the many members of the campus community who have a role in this complex planning process. Countless hours were spent by dozens of our faculty and staff to design Springfield College’s plan for Fall 2020. Let’s work together to create a safe return for all.

Sincerely,

Mary-Beth Cooper

Springfield College President

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Behavioral Expectations

All members of the Springfield College community have a vital role in keeping each other safe. New and returning students will receive the Springfield College Community Agreement that outlines the behavioral expectations that will promote campus safety and community health. It will include basic and now universally recognized behaviors, including:

  • Wearing face coverings everywhere on campus and at all times, except when students are in their residence hall rooms, while bathing, while grooming, while eating, or while exercising outside;
  • Maintaining appropriate social distance of at least 6’; and
  • Washing one's hands often.

We also expect that students will remind each other about these expectations, with the health of our community in mind.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regulations

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently in Phase 3 of re-opening.

Visitors to the state must submit the Massachusetts Travel Form if traveling from states other than Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. Travelers must also quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts.

These new expectations will be added to our dedicated informational website.

Testing and Contact Tracing

We expect to begin the academic year with no virus on campus and to respond quickly to any positive test that occurs, therefore, we are instituting a multi-phase testing and contact tracing program, with an emphasis on pre-arrival and arrival testing. We have contracted with the Broad Institute of Cambridge, MA to conduct our testing.

Arrival and Pre-Arrival Testing

  • Pre-arrival: All students are recommended to obtain a test within 72 hours of arriving on campus and to bring their proof of a negative result with them to campus. Students who test positive must remain at home for 14 days and until they no longer test positive. These students will be able to begin classes remotely.
  • Arrival: All students will be tested on arrival (even those with a negative test results, due to the occurrence of false negatives in testing). Those who test positive will have the choice to return home to isolate for 14 days and until they test negative, or they can enter Supported Isolation Housing on campus for 14 days and until they test negative. Recognizing the difficulty of living in isolation for at least 14 days, the preference is for students to return home, but we understand for some that will be very difficult given distance.

Surveillance Testing

Each week, 10 to 20 percent of the student population will be randomly selected and tested to identify positive tests among asymptomatic individuals. Students who test positive will be moved to Supported Isolation Housing (see below) for 14 days and until they test negative. These students will continue their studies remotely.

Diagnostic Testing

Any student who reports symptoms of COVID-19 or has a confirmed exposure to someone who has tested positive will be tested as recommended by the staff of the Health Center.

Contact Tracing

A trained campus Contact Tracing team will work in concert with the Health Center and the City of Springfield Department of Public Health to identify anyone who has been exposed to someone with the virus. Those individuals will be quarantined for 14 days. Quarantine in this circumstance means that a student cannot enter other residence hall rooms/apartments on campus (other than their own), does not attend class in person (i.e., takes classes remotely), does not eat in the dining hall or other food service areas (i.e., they pick up their “Grab and Go” meals from Cheney Dining Hall and eat outside or in their room), and does not visit any offices on campus. Students in this type of quarantine may be outside, using proper face covering and social distancing.

Supported Isolation Housing

A set of living spaces in standalone buildings on campus have been set aside for use as isolation spaces for students who test positive for the virus. Students in isolation must remain in this building, will take their classes remotely, will be monitored by Residence Life and Health Center staff, and will have food delivered to them.

Housing Move-in and Assignments

New Students and Transfer Students: Move in will take place over three days in a staggered format (Wednesday, August 26 - Friday, August 28) for our new and transfer students. This will allow us to reduce the number of guests on campus at any particular time. Families will have the opportunity to select a preferred day and time slot for move-in. By Friday, July 24 at 12 noon, new and transfer students will receive an email from Residence Life informing them that their housing assignment (and roommate) is available in PrideNet (instructions will be included with the email). 

Returning Students: Move-in will be staggered over the weekend leading up to the start of classes. Returning students will sign up for a move-in slot from Friday afternoon, August 28 through Sunday, August 30.

Each student may have a maximum of two non-students (e.g., parents, siblings) to assist with the move-in process at any given time (other family members can remain in the vehicle).

Starting Friday, July 24 at 12 noon, all students will be able to reserve via PrideNet a spot for move-in on a specific day and at a specific time. Each time slot has limits in terms of capacity, so families are encouraged to be prepared with several preferred time slots.

Residence Life Living

New students will be housed in double rooms in our traditional first-year residence halls. Unfortunately, we cannot accept requests for singles (other than for confirmed medical or ADA accommodations).

Our goal is to create as safe an environment as possible in our residence halls. Some of the policies that will be in place to promote safety are:

  • Each residence hall will have a designated entrance and designated exits and directional signs throughout the building.
  • Plexiglass barriers at all reception desks.
  • Hand sanitizer stations are being installed at all entrances.
  • Elevator capacity will be restricted with signage provided the maximum number of persons allowed.
  • No guests from outside the College (including family) will be allowed in the residence halls at any time.
  • Students may have one Springfield College visitor (a fellow enrolled student) at a time in the residence hall.
  • Bathrooms will have enhanced cleaning
  • Lounges will have reduced capacity based on the square footage of each space.
  • Traditional water fountain usage will not be in service.
  • Residence hall kitchens will be closed. (and no cooking or food preparation will be allowed in hall kitchens)
  • Communal games (e.g., ping-pong, billiards) will be removed.
  • Laundry facilities use will be scheduled and laundry room capacity will be limited, as indicated on the signage in each facility.

Despite these necessary safety changes, residence hall staff will continue to build community through virtual and in-person programming (mostly outdoors while the weather is nice).

Pre-Orientation Programming

Our two pre-orientation programs (Pre-Camp and Cultural Connections) will be held this year, but with fewer students and appropriate safety precautions and behavioral expectations in place.

New Student Orientation

New Student Orientation will officially begin on Friday, August 28 at 1 p.m., though students arriving on Wednesday and Thursday will get some sneak peaks!

Dining

Harvest Table, our new dining partner, has been enhancing and redesigning the Cheney Dining Center to provide for a safe dining experience. Such changes include:

  • Training staff in new rules and expectations regarding food preparation and presentation.
  • Identifying and marking internal traffic flow.
  • Eliminating buffet style options (everything will be plated).
  • Establishing a "grab and go" section that will include the full meals being served that day in the dining hall.
  • Reducing the capacity of the dining hall, expanding distances between tables, and adding capacity through the use of additional spaces for dining.
  • Increasing cleaning and sanitization.

More information to follow on how and when students will access Cheney as well as hours and operational information for the other dining and beverage services on campus. (e.g. Dunkin, Subway, Marketplace [formerly POD], etc.)

Academics

Classes will begin on Monday, August 31 and will be conducted on Labor Day (September 7). Classes will conclude in person on Friday, November 20. Classes will resume entirely remotely on Monday, November 30 and final exams will conclude on Wednesday, December 16.

To allow for receiving the results of Arrival Testing, all classes will be conducted remotely for the first week of the semester.

Classrooms and labs are being structured to ensure physical distancing and classes will be offered remotely and in person to provide hybrid delivery for learning. Students will take approximately half of their classes in face-to-face format. The rest will be taken remotely. Students will be notified when the specific assignments of format have been made for each of their classes. The information will be made available on PrideNet. An email notification will go out to all students in early- to mid-August when PrideNet has been updated.

Actions are being taken to make the in-person classroom/lab experience as safe as possible for students and faculty. In addition to mask wearing, social distancing, and, where necessary, appropriate additional personal protective equipment (PPE), the following actions are being taken:

  • Classroom capacity has been significantly reduced and desks have been placed at appropriate social distances.
  • Internal directional flow has been identified and labeled for each classroom building.
  • Ventilation systems have been tested, filters have been replaced, and air ducts have been cleaned.
  • Classrooms not meeting air quality standards will not be used.
  • Tents have been rented in order to conduct some classes outdoors.
  • Classroom and academic building cleaning have been increased.

Accommodation Requests

Student requests for accommodations regarding participation in on-campus classes and other activities, face covering requirements, or other COVID-19 related requirements should submit this Return to Campus form or contact Erin Eighan, Assistant Director of the Academic Success Center (access@springfield.edu).

Wellness Center

The Wellness Center will be open for students with strict safety controls and enhanced cleaning. Face masks will be required at all times inside the building.