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President Bahls: What to expect this fall

June 26, 2020

Dear members of the Augustana College community,

All of us at Augustana College continue to prepare for an on-time, on-campus start in August.

We firmly believe the college experience is at its best when students live and learn on campus. As we strive to unleash passionate curiosity within each student, we want to provide an adaptive environment where students can participate in live classroom discussions and enjoy student activities.

We are fortunate to be on a campus where 2,500 students can spread out over 115 acres, and since most classes have fewer than two dozen students, we are in a position to adapt. However, opening and staying open will be a team effort. It will be important for all of us to change the way we live, learn and interact. We will offer detailed guidance in an evolving set of campus health and safety strategies.

Each of us will have new responsibilities as we learn to coexist in a society where COVID-19 is present. We will seek to protect each other’s health, and each member of our community will be called upon to offer patience, flexibility and deep consideration of others, as outlined in our Community Principles.

Students will be asked to pledge to show their understanding of the health and safety strategies and their willingness to comply with expectations. Details about the pledge will be shared in July.

Here is additional information about what you can expect this semester:

Academics

Classes will begin Aug. 31, and arrangements will provide for physical distancing.

Classrooms will be cleaned and disinfected multiple times a day.

Masks will be required in classrooms and shared public spaces. Students will receive reusable, washable masks.

Classrooms will be configured for lower capacities and social distancing between students. Because of smaller classes, classes are likely to extend to later in the day than usual.

Reasonable accommodations will be made when possible for students and community members in vulnerable and at-risk groups, and for students who cannot come to campus due to travel restrictions or other factors beyond their control.

If required by a public health official or the state of Illinois, faculty will be prepared to pivot to remote instruction to ensure learning outcomes are achieved and public health requirements are honored.

Models for in-person, hybrid or remote learning are all being created this summer. These models will be designed so Augustana students have uninterrupted, high-quality experiences.

Even if not required, the college may elect to switch to remote instruction to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Residential life

Residence hall occupancy will be limited to allow for 12 feet of physical distance between sleeping areas.

First-year students and new transfer students will be able to sign up for a move-in appointment on Aug. 26-27. Those details will be released by the end of July.

Visitors to campus will not be allowed in residence halls.

Isolation housing areas will be created to accommodate students who test positive for COVID-19 or display symptoms.

Dining Services will provide packaged meals for carryout, and in-person dining will be limited.

Common areas and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Students will be expected to wear masks and maintain physical distance in campus buildings except in their bedrooms.

Testing, contact tracing and education

Routine temperature checks will be required for students, faculty and staff.

While details continue to be finalized, Augustana plans to develop a COVID-19 testing regimen.

Surveillance testing is a best practice for monitoring and preventing spread within organizations. For Augustana, we will do routine sample testing of a statistically significant percentage of the student body.

The college also will have a supply of tests for students showing symptoms.

Contact tracing teams are being trained now. They will be charged with notifying those who have been in sustained close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19.

Students and employees will be required to complete online training on COVID-19, how it spreads, and how individuals and our campus community can mitigate its spread.

New health clinic

The Augustana Convenient Care Clinic Powered by Genesis is scheduled to open Aug. 31.

The clinic will serve only Augustana students and employees, and it will be located near the Gerber Center. (More details about the clinic.)

Campus life

The size of gatherings will be based on the state’s reopening guidelines in force this fall and beyond. We anticipate those guidelines to be fewer than 50 people.

Use of recreational facilities will be limited and in accordance with state guidelines.

Visitors to campus will be required to complete a self-screening evaluation, and they will be asked to follow physical distancing guidelines and wear a mask in public areas.

Athletics

We are in close communication with the NCAA and our athletic conference, and we remain in active discussions with other colleges about fall sports.

Any fall sports program will be accompanied by policies and procedures that would allow student-athletes to return to practice and competition in a safe way. This could include testing, enhanced hygiene, and enhanced cleaning of athletic venues and facilities, as well as spectator guidelines.

Faculty and staff

Employees will continue a phased-in return to work that began in June, with the goal to have most employees working from campus by Aug. 15.

Work areas will be cleaned regularly, and hand sanitizer will be provided.

Masks will be required in publicly shared spaces. Reusable masks will be provided to all employees.

General safety and information

Training will be required for all students and employees to ensure compliance with physical distancing and other COVID-related safety measures.

High-touch surfaces such as door handles and elevator buttons will be disinfected multiple times daily.

Flu shots will be strongly encouraged for all members of the campus community.

See Augustana Strong for further details about the college’s response to COVID-19, and especially the Q&A section where we’ll be answering common questions.

In addition to the measures listed in this document, additional measures may be added, and buildings on campus may have more specific guidance and instruction that community members must follow.

Please feel free to contact us with questions or submit suggestions by using this form.

What you read here and what is yet to come is, in part, motivated by our commitment to meet all reopening requirements outlined by the CDC, and state and local public health departments.

We also hope to exceed, where possible, government and public health agency standards.

Our work also is informed by direction by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, American College Health Association, the OpenSmartEDU plan from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a team of national health care experts providing specific counsel to Augustana College.

While Augustana, like all other institutions, cannot guarantee that members of our community will not be exposed to COVID-19, we can minimize the chances of exposure by working together.

It is my goal to work closely with Dr. Wes Brooks, dean of students, to continue to share important updates with you in July and August, including another in-depth update by July 15.

We are guided by the college’s mission and maintain our commitment to "offering a challenging education that develops the qualities of mind, spirit and body."

Augustana will continue to recognize the significance of helping students grow into socially responsible citizens, capable of seeing beyond themselves in service of the greater good.

Time and time again I’ve witnessed this to be a place where people look out for one another. It is the sense of community at Augustana that gives me confidence that we will adapt to the necessary changes ahead. We are a community that truly understands what it means to be #AugustanaStrong.

Vikings, take care.

Steven C. Bahls
President of the College