Dear Saints Community,
I am writing today to share important information regarding our SaintsRiseUp Safe Return plan for the fall semester 2020-21. I want to thank the Saints Rise Up Steering Committee and the important sub-groups for the work that has been accomplished to date. Although our planning is not complete, important decisions have been made and I would like to share them, as well as let you know how communication will be coming to you as things are further developed. We believe it's important to keep you informed at each stage of preparations rather than to wait until every aspect is figured out.
As we get ready to welcome our Saints back to our campuses and extended sites, our goal is to provide the best academic and co-curricular experience for our students, faculty and staff, with health and safety being our top priority. We are guided by recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Centers for Disease Control, various professional organizations, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's executive orders. While Minnesota shows some hopeful trends in COVID cases, you may have seen the news that the virus has made its way within the doors of our campus neighbor, the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth. Since the start of the pandemic we have eliminated travel between the BLCD, the Monastery and the College. Please join me in praying for their residents and staff.
Meanwhile, many states are seeing COVID-19 cases quickly escalating. The point is, we will need to remain flexible as we approach the start of fall semester. Our goal is to have a plan in place in which we have a high degree of confidence even if COVID-19 infections increase in a second wave. Shutting down in the middle of the semester, as we experienced last March, would not be a desirable outcome for anyone.
The SaintsRiseUp Safe Return plan will guide our overall approach and expected behavior in light of our mission and Benedictine values. Our value of the year for 2020-2021 is COMMUNITY. We define this as sharing responsibility to create and support our Saints community while valuing the uniqueness of the individual, and manifesting the ability to adapt to circumstances without compromising our values. In fact, we are working on a Commitment to Community pledge that we expect to share with you soon.
Here is a sample of signage you will see posted around our campuses and extended sites. Below are some highlights and expectations of our Return to Campus plan, as well as some additional information. Coming soon will be our Employee Reopening Plan, a separate document with more specific information on the phased approach for employee return.
Guided by our values, we have put in place the following expectations:
Face Coverings: Let's keep each other safe!
· Effective this coming Monday, June 29, face coverings (masks, shields, etc.) are required in public spaces on campus and extended sites where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as when entering or exiting campus, lounges, hallways, restrooms, etc. In addition, where workstations do not permit at least six feet between employees, employees must wear face coverings at all times. The use of face coverings is encouraged within office suites even if physical distancing measures can be practiced.
· Employees may bring their own face coverings to work. If employees need a cloth mask, the College will eventually be providing a reusable CSS-branded mask to each employee at no cost. Until then, Mike Turner has masks available.
Monitoring, Testing and Tracing: Thanks to Christine Sandal and her amazing Student Health Service team, along with Mike Turner, we have determined a testing protocol. The College is partnering with the MDH, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic, as well as Essentia to coordinate our testing and tracing efforts.
· Monitoring: All employees and students will be asked to self-monitor their symptoms on a daily basis.
o Students will access our medical records system to "check in" daily. If they are showing symptoms, SHS will follow up with them.
o Employees will self-monitor using a checklist and inform their supervisor if they are not feeling well. They will check in with their primary medical provider.
· Symptomatic Testing: SHS will coordinate testing for those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. A testing protocol has been established with the U of M and Mayo testing partnership.
· Tracing: The College will partner with the MDH on tracing.
· Additional Testing Requirements: The College anticipates additional testing protocols for specific groups and in specific circumstances that may trigger a need for testing. Specifically, student athlete protocols are under development and are being guided by NCAA and UMAC conference expectations.
Physical Distancing: It is expected that employees and students will practice safe physical distancing at all times. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are planning for safe spaces on campuses and extended sites. We hope to offer more outside gathering spaces as well. This includes configuring classrooms, student meeting areas, and dining facilities to comply with MDH recommendations.
Working Remotely: Employees who can work remotely should continue to do so for now. Supervisors will discuss any transition to an in-person basis. Once it's deemed preferable that an employee work in-person, if the employee wants to request permission to continue working remotely, a form will be available. This is under development.If you have questions, talk to your supervisor or department head. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, I encourage you to reach out to the College's resources, such as the Employee Assistance Program, for support.
College Pledge: We will be rolling out a College pledge focused on our value of community, which we hope and expect all employees and students will uphold.
Housing: Residence halls are being prepared to welcome students back according to the guidelines of the MDH, which recommends two students to a room. We have also identified space in Somers Hall for quarantine/self-isolation in the event that it becomes necessary.
Travel: College-sponsored international and domestic travel is suspended. In some exceptional cases, employees may be given permission to travel for critical purposes; however, they will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return. Please refer to the College's Pandemic HR policy for more information.
Communication: A robust communication plan and timeline is under development and will be pushed out over the next couple of weeks.· By the end of next week, the SaintsRiseUp Safe Return webpage, /SafeReturn, (link not active yet) will be published and will house College-wide plans and COVID-19 communications updates.
· Attached is a sample of the types of signage that will be posted around campuses and external sites and at all building entrances. These public communication tools explain the expectations of behavior. Please read them carefully.
· Ongoing and more targeted communications will go to parents, students and employees as plans are finalized. Expect to get updates from the President once a week and more targeted messaging from other leaders with specifics about plans for a safe return.
Fall Start: As announced earlier, fall semester classes will begin as planned on Sept. 8. The mode of academic delivery will be "hybrid," with a mixture of face-to-face, online and virtual classwork. Fall semester ends on Dec. 23. Our approach remains flexible in the event that the College has to revert to complete remote delivery.
In related news, next week we will be sending out an employee survey. We want to get your perspective on returning to the workplace, and offer an opportunity for comments and ideas.
The more we can know about how we are all doing, the more effectively we will be able to support one another.
Yes, there will remain unknowns. But each week, our path forward becomes clearer. I have trust that we can stick to our SaintsRiseUp Safe Return Plan. Thank you for your continued support!
Stay safe and be well,