COVID-19 Update: 5/29/20
From the Office of the President
It’s officially summer at Oglethorpe and though we haven’t returned to campus, our faculty and staff are busier than ever preparing for our return. Starting next week, our summer classes will begin with record enrollments in 100% remote courses—still small, still personal—but available where you are. There’s still time to enroll.
In addition to preparations for summer courses, our COVID-19 Task Force has been hard at work to develop plans to create a safe campus experience for everyone this fall. Our work is guided by three core commitments:
- Maintaining the health and safety of our campus community – students, faculty, staff, coaches, and those in our surrounding Brookhaven neighborhood.
- Delivering the highest quality educational experience in small, discussion-based, high-engagement courses regardless of modality.
- Providing the individualized student support and advocacy that is the hallmark of our Oglethorpe community.
Our planning is well underway, and we will be sharing more details in the coming weeks. A new COVID-19 website is being developed, and we will share updates on our fall planning weekly via email.
CARES Act Funding
Next week, we will begin distributing emergency aid grants to students with funds from the federal CARES Act and supplemented by additional Oglethorpe funds. Eligible students received an email with details earlier this week. We have also set aside a portion of the CARES funding for additional emergency grants on an application basis. Any questions about any of these grants can be submitted here.
The fall 2020 academic calendar has been published. As we shared in our last update, our intent is for face-to-face classes will resume on September 8. Due to the shift in start date, we have eliminated fall break.
While a few of our faculty are choosing to deliver the entirety of their fall classes remotely for a variety of reasons, the vast majority of our classes will be offered face-to-face. To allow for greater social distancing, the physical capacities in classrooms will be modified, resulting in many classes being split to allow half the class to attend in-person and the other half remotely on alternating days. This summer we are upgrading the campus network and purchasing additional equipment to ensure faculty can make all material presented face-to-face available remotely for any students not able to attend in-person (whether on a scheduled remote day or due to illness, self-isolation, quarantine, etc. ) With feedback from the student and faculty remote learning surveys, our faculty have already begun additional training in hybrid and online pedagogy and are planning their fall courses for flexibility as circumstances change.
We are planning a robust campus-living plan to include new cleaning protocols, social contracts, and quarantine/isolation protocols. Fortunately, the density in our residence halls is already low, so we are planning for normal occupancy in double and single rooms. New and returning students will move in on a staggered schedule beginning on or around September 4th. Early arrivals (fall sport athletes, orientation leaders, RAs) will likely begin moving in mid-August.
We will be following strict national and state guidelines for food service, which will include social distancing, grab-and-go meal options, fully-staffed stations instead of self-serve, and numerous other safety precautions. In addition, following state guidelines for the number of diners per square foot, we have identified up to six additional dining locations along with our Petrels Nest dining hall.
At this time, the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) is planning to hold regular competitions for fall sports, following strict safety protocols, beginning September 1. We will report more as we receive guidance from the SAA, NCAA, and health officials.
We have already begun the preparation of our facilities. Plans will include hand sanitizer stations throughout campus; providing disinfecting wipes in all offices, classrooms and public spaces; step-and-pull hardware for doors; adding plexiglass contact guards where needed; arranging all public spaces to maximize social distancing; posting maximum room occupancy numbers outside of all public spaces and classrooms, upgrading all HVAC and air filtration systems in buildings to include MERV-15 filters and programmed to maximize outside air intake; providing touch-free flush valves in public restrooms; increasing the cleaning and disinfection of all spaces, including the use of disinfecting foggers; and exploring the feasibility of additional HVAC systems modifications that incorporate UV, Ozone, or carbon-bed technology to clean return air beyond filtering.
We are purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) which will be made available to any member of the OU community who needs it (masks, face shields, etc.) A critical part of maintaining a healthy and safe campus will be our social contract—a set of expectations and behaviors we will all agree to out of respect and concern for our fellow Petrels. This agreement will include social distancing expectations, self-health monitoring, use of PPE as required (including the wearing of masks in public), and other expectations. In partnership with the DeKalb County Health Department and the Emory Healthcare Network, we are developing testing and contact tracing procedures for the Oglethorpe community.
As we have all learned through this pandemic, guidelines and plans are subject to change—and likely will change over time. We have much more detail about these and other areas of concern to share with you in the coming weeks. Please be on the lookout for the next update and an announcement of the COVID-19 website launch.
In the meantime, continue to make smart choices, stay safe and stay stormy!
President Schall and President-elect Ladany