The following memo was sent to Maryville College students, faculty and staff this afternoon.
Tom Bogart, President
TO: Maryville College Students, Faculty and Staff
FROM: Dr. Tom Bogart, President
RE: The Fall 2020 Semester
DATE: June 5, 2020
Last week, the College’s COVID-19 Contingency Planning Task Force delivered to me its report on navigating the pandemic on campus in the coming months. Much work went into thinking through various scenarios and the decisions that would be made at various points. The task force’s work was well-reasoned and thorough, taking into consideration our desire to reopen alongside guidance by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the various guidelines from federal, state and local authorities.
Based on the findings and recommendations outlined in the report, I am confident that we can safely and responsibly resume in-person classroom instruction and residential living for the fall. Reopening will require modifications to behaviors and campus operations, and many details are still being worked out, but I want you to be aware of the specifics as we have them today.
Standards for behavior
COVID-19 work guidelines for faculty and staff have been developed and were shared yesterday. Many of the guidelines regarding on-campus behavior are the same for employees and students and include: Daily self-temperature checks and health monitoring; maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet; and wearing face masks or coverings when in public places, spaces used by multiple people, and when physical distancing is not feasible. All members of the campus community are expected to take personal steps to prevent virus spread, such as increased hand washing with soap and water and using hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.
Additional COVID-19-related guidance for students will be made available on the College’s website and in separate email communications.
Academic calendar and instruction
As many other institutions have announced, Maryville College is removing the Labor Day holiday and Fall Break from the academic calendar and will end in-person instruction at Thanksgiving, sending students home to take their final exams remotely the following week. To accommodate this schedule, the start date of classes has been moved up to Wed., Aug. 19.
We will follow physical distancing guidelines in classrooms and labs, which means larger classes will be relocated, broken up into smaller sections, and/or offered in online components.
The College will continue to assist students and faculty members with the technology and pedagogy required for quality online learning experiences.
Support services will be provided in person and online.
Maryville College is a residential community, and we believe the residential experience is valuable to students’ growth and maturity. Our plans for the upcoming year aim to strike a balance between that experience and concerns for the health and safety of students, staff and faculty members.
With the adjusted start of the semester, dates for residence hall move-in are being finalized. Staff members will begin outreach to residential students next week. Much like the move-out experience in March, we plan to move students in over several days and in shifts with limited people to allow for physical distancing and appropriate cleaning.
The College will move to single-occupancy rooms in halls where residents use a community bathroom. This decision supports an effort to reduce the population in halls, thereby reducing the chances of person-to-person transmission and contamination on hard surfaces like faucets, doorknobs and stairwell railings. Single-occupancy living also allows students to quarantine in their own rooms, should the situation warrant it. These residents will not be charged a single-occupancy rate.
Residents who previously signed up to live with roommates in suites with self-contained kitchens and bathrooms will be permitted to live in those rooms but will need to sign a liability waiver before July 1 to do so. Students not signing the waiver and/or not wishing to live in a suite will be housed in a single room.
Rooms also are being reserved on campus in the event that students who live with suitemates become sick and require isolation.
A Maryville College COVID-19 Workgroup is meeting twice weekly to monitor developments related to the virus, address associated issues, and make recommendations for operations this summer and fall. Keni Lanagan, the College’s human resources director, is serving as a COVID-19 coordinator for employees; Dr. Melanie Tucker, vice president and dean of students, is serving as a COVID-19 coordinator for students.
The College is partnering with the Blount County Health Department to assist with guidance, planning and monitoring. The health department is able to offer free COVID-19 testing to all members of our campus community.
Cleaning and safeguarding measures
Cleaning and disinfecting campus spaces have always been priorities at the College, but with COVID-19, efforts are being increased to comply with contemporary CDC Guidance for Shared and Congregate Housing and the Tennessee Pledge’s Higher Education Guidelines. The College is adjusting housekeeping staffing levels and schedules to ensure compliance. It is also purchasing more sanitizing equipment, hand sanitizing stations and sanitizing wipe dispensers.
Plexiglass and other physical barriers are being installed in areas where face-to-face transactions are necessary. Other safeguards will include: Signage directing traffic flow in, out and through some buildings; visual cues on floors in spaces where lines typically form; and reconfigured workspaces to meet physical distancing guidelines.
We plan to open the dining room in Pearsons Hall and Isaac’s Café, and campus food provider Metz Culinary will follow the Tennessee Pledge’s Restaurant Guidelines. Capacity will be reduced, and steps will be taken to facilitate physical distancing and prevent virus spread.
While diners will not be allowed to serve themselves, as was the previous practice, we do not anticipate a reduction in the menu or quantity of food available to meal plan purchasers.
We are monitoring guidance from the NCAA and USA South Athletic Conference on a continuous level. We anticipate all student-athletes having meaningful experiences on campus this year, including competition, but with modifications. We are awaiting final decisions anticipated at the conference and national level over the next few weeks to further inform our plans.
Fall student-athletes should plan on returning to campus by early August. The athletics staff and the College are committed to sharing additional details as soon as they are confirmed.
As CDC and state and local guidelines continue to advise against large gatherings and international travel, much uncertainty remains for campus events, including College-sponsored fine arts events, and international education. We are hopeful that these aspects of the Maryville College experience can resume quickly.
The Fall 2020 semester will be unprecedented, just as the Spring 2020 semester was. But the difference between the two is that we now have more information about the COVID-19 virus and have had time to prepare the campus for safer learning and living spaces. Without question, Maryville College will look and feel a little different, but I hope everyone is excited to get to campus, start a new school year and figure out our “new normal.”
For updates, I encourage you to check your College email account and Today@MC e-newsletters daily and refer to the College’s COVID-19 webpage regularly.