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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 students and families,

I am pleased to present to you the final report of Bridgewater State University’s Safe Return Task Force. I want to thank you for your patience as more than 100 members of the BSU community thoroughly examined, considered and made recommendations on the many complex issues involved in safely returning students, faculty and staff to the BSU campus in the fall of 2020. 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 the university will offer housing to all students who have made their residence hall deposit

All our deliberations were focused first and foremost on assuring safety, and we consulted with public health officials at the state and federal levels in making these decisions. These deliberations also were informed by you, with more than 1,300 current students completing a campus survey. 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 provide classes in both on-line and blended formats in which courses such as science labs, studio and performing arts, and selected seminar and capstone courses will combine on-line and in-person instruction. Students will be able to view class formats 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 exceptionally strong academic support services and resources to help each and every student succeed. Our Academic Achievement Center provides a comprehensive array of programs, whether students require advising, learning assistance, disability resources or other individual needs.

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 online format after Thanksgiving.

Residence Halls

BSU will open each of its residence halls. 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 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 of nearly 11,000 to be present on campus at any one time.

Personal Responsibility

Living and studying on campus comes with certain responsibilities and obligations. These responsibilities and obligations are in place to protect you and your fellow Bears. We have to think about how our actions may affect our friends, fellow students, professors, librarians and staff. We expect students living and studying on campus to follow these public health practices to limit the transmission of the virus:

  • Maintaining physical distancing of six feet;
  • Wearing masks or face coverings at all times except when in their residence hall room or when eating in one of our dining halls;
  • For resident students, submitting to regular COVID-19 testing. BSU has developed a testing protocol (tests are not invasive) and all resident students will be required to be tested upon first arriving at BSU and every two weeks thereafter. Testing will also be available to commuter students who take classes on campus, but not required.
  • Limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people, based upon Governor Baker’s current mandate; any gatherings must be appropriately distanced and follow face covering guidelines.
  • Assisting with COVID-19 tracing procedures; and
  • Agreeing to BSU’s Code of Public Health pledge, which will be shared soon.

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.

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 for 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. BSU will be able to conduct up to 2,000 tests per week for residential students to help identify those who may have COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms. All resident students will be tested upon arriving at BSU for move-in days and will be tested every two weeks thereafter. Tests will also be made available on a voluntary basis to commuting students taking classes in-person at BSU and to faculty and staff who are physically present on campus. 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 members of our community who may have come in contact with an infected person. The system draws from multiple sources of data that gives 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 extensive 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, residence halls, 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.

Virtual Town Hall Events

BSU will host several Town Hall Meetings for students and families in July and August. I want to make sure you have the opportunity to ask questions. Please continue to monitor your BSU e-mail for further updates and the announcement of Town Hall dates.

Financial Support

BSU also 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 enrolled students and also has invested an additional half million dollars in local financial aid.

As a teaching and learning community, and as a family, we cannot and will not let this crisis define us. This is the time for each one of you to lean into your education, to keep going and not let COVID-19 stop your success and progress. We will be with you every step of the way, teaching, advising, guiding and supporting you. We are here to help our students - every student, one at a time. Please continue to check the COVID-19 website for new information. If you have questions, please direct those to covid-19@bridgew.edu.

Warmest regards,

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