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COVID 19: Fall Semester Safe Return Plan – A Message from President Clark

Office of the President
Wednesday 7/1/2020

Subject: Fall Semester Safe Return Plan - A Message from President Clark

 

Dear BSU faculty, librarians and staff,

I am pleased to present to you the final report of Bridgewater State University’s Safe Return Task Force, which I appointed in May to make recommendations on the many complex issues involved in safely returning students, faculty, librarians and staff to the BSU campus in the fall of 2020.

I want to thank Provost Karim Ismaili for leading this effort, the chairs and members of our four subcommittees – academic continuity, student life, facilities and logistics and external community outreach – as well as the health response and safe return of employees working groups.

In all, more than 100 BSU students, faculty, librarians and staff were formally involved in this complex process, and many others were consulted as the Task Force carefully considered the many interrelated issues involved in a return. All our deliberations were focused first and foremost on assuring safety, and we consulted with public health officials and guidance at the state and federal levels in making these decisions. The bottom line is:

Bridgewater State University will be delivering most of its classes on-line for the fall semester, while science labs, studio and performing arts, and selected seminar and capstone courses will blend on-line and in-person instruction. All residence halls will be open and, space permitting, we plan to accommodate all students who wish to live on campus.

Below, I have summarized the core decisions made in the report.

Teaching and Learning

Fall 2020 classes will start on time on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. The university will be providing classes both on-line and in blended formats (on-line and in-person instruction), with the latter focusing on science labs, studio and performing arts, and selected seminar and capstone courses. The Academic Continuity subcommittee has worked with faculty, chairs and deans in assessing and determining which of our 2,700 class sections will be offered in a blended format, which we anticipate sharing by July 17. We have invested in technology and faculty development to ensure we deliver the highest quality education. BSU has retrofitted classrooms, labs and studio spaces to allow for appropriate physical distancing and expanded protocols to ensure each of these spaces is cleaned and disinfected after each use. BSU will continue to provide students with the exceptionally strong academic support, services and resources to help each and every student succeed.

In order to mitigate the risk of infection from students, faculty and staff returning from the Thanksgiving holiday, BSU will shift all courses and final exams to an on-line format after Thanksgiving.

I want to thank our faculty, librarians and academic support centers for delivering the very highest quality educational experience we can provide students under extraordinarily challenging conditions.

Residence Halls

BSU will open each of its residence halls in the fall. Students will be able to live in single rooms or double occupancy rooms with one roommate, although we have eliminated all triple and quad living. Rooms that are traditionally used as triples and quads will now have double occupancy. We are doing everything possible to ensure that all students who wish to live on campus can be accommodated. This may include creating some off-campus housing accommodations to meet the high demand. BSU also has set aside 48 rooms for students that need to isolate or quarantine for a two-week period to further ensure everyone's safety.

Even with residence halls open, BSU is significantly “de-densifying” its campus as we expect no more than one-third of our total student population to be present on campus at any one time.

Dining

BSU’s food service provider, Sodexo, has developed an extensive safe return plan for Bridgewater State University based on its far-reaching global experience in managing food preparation and delivery in a way that protects students and food service staff. Dining hall tables have been distanced for safety and a reservation system has been established to ensure that dining halls are not overcrowded. We have eliminated buffet-style dining options and will offer grab-and-go meals. BSU will have additional staff in the dining areas to ensure students are sanitizing their hands and wearing face masks upon entry and will utilize one-way entry and egress from the dining halls. Going beyond the traditional dining experience, we are exploring the use of food trucks and will be debuting a new robot delivery system that will bring food right to a student’s residence hall for safe and secure pick-up. Employees will sanitize high-contact service areas multiple times a day, keep a safe distance during deliveries, wear gloves, wash hands and wear face coverings in the kitchen and serving areas.

Testing

In order to provide maximum safety of the BSU community, BSU is working towards an agreement with the world-renowned Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to implement a rigorous testing system on campus. Under BSU’s testing protocol, all resident students will be tested upon arrival at BSU for move-in days and will be tested every two weeks thereafter. BSU also will make tests available to commuter students, faculty, librarians and staff who are physically on campus. BSU will be able to conduct up to 2,000 tests per week for students, faculty and staff to help identify those who may have COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms. These tests are simple to administer and only require swabbing the inside of a person’s nostril. Test results will be returned to BSU within 24 hours, after which we would immediately commence isolation and contact tracing procedures should this be required.

Contact Tracing

BSU has developed its own contact tracing system that will allow us to quickly identify and contact any members of our community who may have come in contact with an infected person. The system draws from multiple sources of data that affords us a high level of precision in determining where a person with COVID-19 has been and with whom they may have come in contact. Only the information required to enable immediate contact tracing will be collected and reported.

Cleaning

BSU has adopted rigorous and expanded protocols for cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, labs, studios, restrooms, offices and all common spaces on the campus. We have developed new trainings for our maintainer staff and purchased extensive personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and the most advanced technology for disinfecting spaces. We are delivering “Bear Buckets” to all classrooms and academic and administrative departments across BSU, which will contain disinfecting and cleaning supplies, as well as instructions for use, to sanitize high-touch point areas.

Staff Safe Return

Bridgewater State University already has begun the work of implementing a phased and gradual return of employees to the campus. In this phased return, BSU continues to fully comply with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Mandated Safety Standards for office spaces as identified by the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. This will ensure that the mandated safety standards are met and that BSU has identified a process for how to repopulate the campus, including implementing workplace protocols and training to ensure a safe and healthy workspace.

Even as we repopulate campus, particularly with staff in student facing offices and in positions whose core tasks cannot be performed remotely, we will be continuing to “de-densify” the campus by offering alternative work arrangements, including telecommuting, staggered reporting and departure times, and alternating schedules of working on campus and from home. Public health guidance will continue to drive our decision-making and we will be flexible and accommodating in working with faculty and staff who may have underlying health conditions, are living with vulnerable family members or are experiencing other conditions limiting their ability to be on campus.

All employees will be required to complete Safe Return Training before returning to campus. The university is also developing a new BSU Code of Public Health and accompanying pledge, which we are requiring all members of the community to affirmatively sign and support.

Travel

In light of the growth in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths nationally and globally, BSU is suspending all international and interstate travel by students, faculty, librarians and staff through the end of calendar year 2020. We will review this decision later in the fall in the hope that public health trends permit us to relax these restrictions in the spring.

Student Financial Support

As a student-centered institution, I also want to make you aware of other ways we are supporting students. BSU realizes that the pandemic has imposed many hardships on students and families, which is why we froze tuition and fees for the upcoming year and will not be charging parking fees for commuter students. With the support of BSU’s generous donors and federal CARES Act assistance, BSU established a Student Emergency Fund. In the spring, the Fund helped more than 1,500 students, disbursing approximately $1 million in aid to help students who had been impacted by the pandemic to pay their bills and other costs. For 2021, BSU has approximately $3.4 million available in the Student Emergency Fund to assist students, and also has invested an additional half million dollars in local financial aid. It is important that you know these resources are available for our students.

Personal Responsibility

While BSU is doing all it can to keep our community safe, our success is ultimately up to each and every one of us. It means that we must think about how our actions may be affecting our fellow employees and students. It means prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our entire community. We expect faculty, librarians and staff teaching and working on campus to follow these public health practices designed to limit the transmission of the virus:

  • Maintaining physical distancing of six feet;
  • Wearing masks or face coverings at all times in indoor and outdoor public spaces except when one is alone in their office;
  • Assisting with tracing procedures; and
  • Agreeing to BSU’s Code of Public Health pledge.

BSU also has been very active in procuring necessary and sufficient supplies to keep our employees safe, including 47,500 surgical masks, 1,000 N95 masks, 750 face shields, 50 Plexiglass shields, 275 door pulls, as well as nitrile gloves, booties, disinfectant spray and disinfectant wipes. BSU will be providing washable, cloth masks to all faculty and staff who will be on campus in the fall.

I have said from the outset of this crisis, “We’ve Got This.” I have been able to confidently assert that because I have faith in every member of our BSU family to do the right thing by being personally responsible.

As a teaching and learning community, and as a family, we cannot and will not let this crisis define us. Together we will get through this challenge because we are a caring and compassionate group of professionals dedicated to a common mission of providing every student the very best education possible. I cannot thank you enough for how everyone has pulled together during this incredibly difficult period in our history. Please direct any questions you may have to Covid-19@bridgew.edu.

Warmest regards,

Fred Clark
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.
President