June 29, 2020
Dear Wilson Students and Families,
I sincerely hope this email finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Without a doubt, the last four months have been a roller coaster of emotions and challenges for us all. Like you, I am still amazed that we find ourselves in a situation where we are dealing with COVID-19. I am incredibly thankful for your patience as Wilson College has worked through its response to the global pandemic as well as how the College will continue to offer the exceptional learning experience you have come to expect from our institution. Thank you.
It is hard to believe that the start of a new academic year is almost upon us. And, while there are still many unknowns, and likely will continue to be, the College is making good progress on its plans to re-open and welcome students back to campus. Below are several items that I hope will help you to understand how our campus may look and feel different for the fall semester. Please know this is not a comprehensive list. Our re-opening taskforces focusing on Instruction, Life Safety and Student Support are hard at work on our COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. Once that plan is in a more complete form, it will be shared broadly via email and posted to Wilson.edu.
The plan will be a “working document.” By design, it will evolve and be updated based upon circumstances of the pandemic. We will be flexible and thus able to respond to how the virus may progress and any restrictions or modifications to operations required by the governor of Pennsylvania. However, I’d like to assure you that the health and safety of our entire campus community will remain our top priority as we make decisions.
Instruction, Academic Calendar and Classroom Modifications
As we shared in a previous communication, we are planning for in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester. Classes are scheduled to begin August 24 and continue until November 20. There will be no fall break. The adjusted semester calendar will meet the number of hours per credit required by our accreditation standards. In-person finals for lab/experiential classes will be held November 21 – November 24. All other finals will be completed remotely November 30 – December 4. All final projects will also be due during this same timeframe. This adjusted timeline helps avoid bringing students back to campus at a time when a resurgence of COVID-19 has been predicted to hit. It is also the same time the flu season normally begins in earnest in our region. In addition, if students leave campus for a short break and travel, there is greater risk of the virus being unknowingly contracted and brought back to campus.
Published dates for both January term (January 4 – 31, 2021) and spring term (January 25 – May 4, 2021 with finals May 10 – 13, 2021) are not expected to change. These dates may be reconsidered later in the fall as we adapt to changes with the pandemic.
We also understand there may be special or unique circumstances where some members of our community, including students, faculty and staff, may not feel comfortable in a regular college classroom. To be sensitive to that need, we are carefully examining the fall schedule. The College Registrar and Associate Dean of Academic Advising have been making adjustments to the fall schedule to accommodate social distancing in all lecture classes. Some classes have shifted to wholly online or scheduled hybrid formats, and certain multi-section classes and components of our liberal arts curriculum will have online options. Any class of 15 students or more will have live streaming capability, in case a student needs to temporarily be absent from class. Students and faculty in laboratory, clinical, and experiential learning environments will also have personal protective equipment provided by the College specific to those instructional settings.
The College is also examining our physical spaces on campus and how they will need to be modified to accommodate social distancing protocols. At minimum, you can expect classrooms with fewer seats, greater distance between seating across campus, additional safety precautions in our labs and spaces not traditionally considered classrooms, like Laird Hall, turned into classroom space. In addition, faculty will be required to wear face shields, and students will be required to wear face coverings in a face-to-face classroom setting.
Sage Dining Services will ensure all safety precautions are adhered to at both Jensen Dining Hall and the café in the John Stewart Memorial Library. For the fall, continuous dining service will be offered in Jensen from 7 am – 7 pm with limited, socially distanced seating capacity and a serving capacity limited to 50 individuals at a time. All food and beverage items will be offered via “pre-packaged, grab and go” service on disposable paper goods from food stations distantly spaced in the dining hall. The salad bar and self-serve stations will not be available.
Individuals will be required to wear face coverings, except when eating, while inside the dining hall. A hand sanitizing station will be provided at the entrance. Signage and social distancing markers will help guide individuals and maintain safety precautions. All transactions at both locations will be cashless.
Campus Visitor Policy
Until updated guidance is provided, only faculty, staff, students and approved visitors/vendors will be permitted in Wilson College buildings, classrooms, and residence halls. No other guests are permitted. And as an added precaution, only residential students will be permitted in residential facilities. This may seem harsh or extreme to some. However, one of our best defenses against COVID-19 is limiting the number of individuals on our campus from outside our immediate campus family.
Our residential life staff have compiled an extensive plan to accommodate all students who wish to live on campus while maintaining all health and safety guidelines. Residential Life has in place a process to follow social distancing and personal hygiene recommendations from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control. Only residential students, college staff, and pre-approved guests that are approved by the Director of Residence Life will be permitted in the residence halls.
Common spaces, amenities and restrooms in the residence halls will be properly sanitized and socially distanced to adhere to state guidance. In addition, should there be a confirmed case of COVID-19 among our residential students, on-campus housing has been identified to serve as quarantine/isolation space. In addition, signage to re-enforce personal hygiene, face coverings, and social distancing will be added to the residence halls.
To further promote social distancing and safe practices, Move-In Day this year will be staggered across several days and times. Students will have a limited amount of time to move-in to their residence hall and will be limited to the number of non-student individuals assisting them. Residential Life will be communicating directly with students to schedule this process.
A Clean Campus
We have updated a number of policies and procedures regarding the cleaning and sanitation of our campus to include increased rounds in the restrooms and cleaning of hard surfaces. In addition, hand sanitizing stations will be established in all high-traffic areas across campus. Entrances and exits will be designated for one-way pedestrian traffic, where feasible, and signage will be placed across campus with reminders of how to prevent the spread of germs; the importance of wearing face coverings; and, how to properly sanitize a common space and/or common equipment before and after use, etc.
Statement of Community Responsibility and Acknowledgement of Safety Procedures
Throughout our planning process, it has become clear it will take every member of the Wilson family to ensure the health and safety of our campus. Limiting the spread of germs is everyone’s responsibility. It does not lie just with our housekeeping staff. Rather, we all play a role in keeping our community healthy.
To help in our collective understanding of our responsibility, each member of our campus community will be asked to commit to a common set of expectations related to COVID-19 and taking precautionary, preventative measures such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, personal hygiene, limiting group gatherings, limiting guests and visitors on campus, and assessing one’s health before coming to campus. This document will be provided to all in the coming weeks.
We will continue to provide you with information and updates as our health and safety plan evolves and as we near the start of the fall semester. Please continue to stay safe, take care of yourself and of one another. While the fall may be different, I am still excited about seeing you on campus. Even if socially distanced, it will be fantastic to be together again as #onewilson. See you soon!
Wesley R. Fugate, Ph.D.