Faculty and staff at Augustana College are working hard to welcome back students to a safe and secure campus this fall.
“It is our goal and expectation to offer in-person classes in the fall because we are dedicated to helping our students achieve dreams they never thought possible," said President Steve Bahls, "and we believe in-person classes and the residential experience are the best ways to make that happen."
Faculty and staff on the Augustana Strong Task Force are developing a comprehensive plan based on continued guidance and recommendations from the state of Illinois, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College Health Association and other public health authorities.
“We will continue to work, plan and prepare to return in the fall with gusto,” said Dr. Wes Brooks, vice president and dean of students. “Education, communication and clear protocols aligned with expert guidance will be key. Our top priority is the safety of our students, staff and campus visitors."
Residential life is an important aspect of a safe return. Cleaning protocols that adhere to CDC guidelines will be enhanced in the halls. The college is investigating alternatives if more single rooms are needed, including the availability of nearby hotels. Isolation and quarantine plans already are in place for students who may develop COVID-19 symptoms.
The use of masks and social distancing in common areas will be expected across campus. Protocols for temperature checks and screenings for students, staff and campus visitors will be established.
Augustana also will open an on-campus student health clinic this fall, prompted in part by student interest during the past 18 months. “We're excited to have this service assist us in addressing the college’s response to the coronavirus,” Dr. Brooks said.
Even as the college modifies practices and prepares for students to return, the Augustana Strong Task Force will continue to plan for alternatives to ensure the college can adapt quickly if in-person classes are not possible.
Considerations being discussed include changes to the academic calendar, including a delayed start date and modified break schedules to limit travel; changes to teaching models; and working with faculty on remote teaching and learning, should it be required for any portion of the next academic year.
The college will make a decision about in-person classes when as many possible facts are known, but soon enough to give appropriate notice. Augustana will not rush to a premature conclusion, President Bahls said.
The college will absorb additional costs associated with reopening under CDC standards and will seek to raise additional funds to offset these costs and increase financial aid for Augustana families hit hardest by the crisis.