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COVID-19 Update: July and Fall Plans

President Debbie Cottrell sent the following communication to TLU faculty, staff, and students on Thursday, June 25, 2020:

As we approach the end of June, we are navigating a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in our state and region, even as we finalize plans for our Summer School B session in July and work to create a comprehensive reopening plan for the fall semester. I’m writing today to provide some details related to where we are, and preview what you can expect in the days ahead. This message incorporates many discussions and decisions, and I hope you will read it closely to have the best understanding of our plans and how they pertain to you.

Before providing further details, there are two main points I want to share:

  • The first is that everything we are doing in our planning work is focused first and foremost on safety, with a lot of attention and energy being given to what we can do to maximize a safe experience for everyone on campus.
  • The second point is that in the midst of much excitement about reopening our campus in the fall, we are going about this work knowing that considerable adjustments will have to be made to our usual operations in order to successfully reopen our campus. I have full confidence that all of our community members will understand this and will be excited to return to campus with Bulldog flexibility and adaptability in abundance—but I would remiss if I did not remind you today that, even with our full commitment to serving our students well and offering an outstanding educational experience on our campus, our year ahead is going to look a little different.

July provides us with an opportunity for a very limited reopening, ahead of the beginning of the fall semester. In light of the changing environment around us, we have made the decision to reduce the number of July (Summer B) face-to-face classes from 8 to 5 (moving 3 of the original face-to-face classes to online delivery). In addition, we will run a small number of labs and Nursing clinicals in face-to-face format. Emergency housing will continue to be provided for students who have qualified for that, and we will also house a small number of students who are doing research or internship work and/or taking face-to-face classes, with a total of 14 students living on campus in July (all in single-unit apartments). Starting Monday, July 6, the Alumni Student Center (8-5 daily) and the TLU Bookstore (8:30-4:30 M-F) will be available to students registered for Summer B classes. The Tschoepe 103 computer lab also will be available for Summer B students. Library access and IT sessions will be available via appointment only. Campus events will be extremely limited, with all athletic facilities on campus remaining closed and all large-scale events, such as Bulldog Basics, being held remotely. VPs will communicate with their staff members concerning employee work arrangements for July; there may be some increase in our employee numbers on campus but many employees will continue to work from home. In sum, we are planning a very limited level of activity in July, with the focus on the safe delivery of our courses to our students during this time. Please remember that students, faculty, and staff members are required to wear face masks in campus buildings (unless you are alone in your office or dorm room). You can find full details for July campus protocols in the June 18 COVID-19 campus update.

In addition to making the adjustments to Summer B noted above, our COVID-19 Planning and Response Committee and the five COVID-19 work teams are working on fall plans for housing, classes, and health and safety protocols. As we work toward a goal of sharing a comprehensive and updated “Looking Ahead: Our Plan for Summer and Fall 2020” document on tlu.edu by mid-July, I wanted to update you today on some significant decisions we’ve recently made and what decisions you can expect next.

  • Residence Life will be reinitiating the housing sign-up process for the 2020-2021 academic year due to changes being made for the health and safety of our students. All housing assignments this next year will be singles, with residence hall rooms being assigned one resident and apartments being assigned two residents, one in each bedroom. Eric Booth, Director of Residence Life, will be communicating instructions to students via email today on the reapplication process and housing options. The deadline for students to reapply for housing is July 6. We are convinced this is a necessary and important part of our safety protocols, but we recognize that it will mean some significant adjustments for our residential students. Please look for more information from Eric later today and please do not hesitate to contact him with any questions.
  • At this time, we are planning for our fall academic calendar to remain as originally set, with classes beginning on August 25 and ending on December 9. We are also still planning on the observation of Fall Break and Thanksgiving holidays. We recognize that many institutions have made adjustments in this area, but based on our student population, along with safety protocols we are putting in place, we currently anticipate that changing our semester calendar would not increase safety levels on our campus. We will, of course, continue to monitor the external environment to determine if this plan will require any adjustments.
  • The next decisions to be finalized center around classes, where we do anticipate face-to-face offerings, along with some online and synchronous learning for fall. Students will hear from their instructors in advance of the beginning of the semester regarding the format for their classes. In addition, we will finalize decisions related to safety protocols for academic buildings, classroom spaces, labs, residence halls, office spaces, and common spaces. We will also have information regarding a campus check-in app for faculty, staff, and students so we can do contact tracing. We plan to have all of this information emailed to the TLU community and posted on tlu.edu by mid-July.
  • We will also be revamping our Health Services area, adding a Physicians Assistant to our staff and relocating this area to a larger space.

I recognize that there are many details to sort through, and that there will be some concerns about the changes ahead. Once we have finalized all of our fall plans and shared them with you, I’ll host more livestream town hall meetings to provide further details and answer any questions you may have. And I can assure you that your safety within your experience at TLU—as faculty, staff, or student--will be our top priority.

I am grateful for the diligent and careful work that is being done by the President’s Cabinet, the COVID-19 Planning and Response Committee, and the five work teams focused on specific aspects of our reopening. Their work is a testament to our strong desire to provide a safe reopening and honor and further the educational quality that TLU is known for, even in unusual and challenging times. And, I also want to thank each of you for your continued patience and support, as well as the part you will have in helping ensure the health and safety of our community.

With much gratitude,

President Cottrell