The College plans to reopen the Duluth and extended campuses this fall, including residence halls. Courses on those campuses will be taught using a mixture of in-person and virtual methods for the fall semester. Students in our fully online programs will not experience any change to the delivery of their courses.
This plan remains flexible and could change if pandemic circumstances require it. The safety of our students, faculty and staff will remain our top priority. We will continue to monitor guidance provided by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For more information, visit the Coronavirus frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.
Please see the updates below for important information regarding the following:
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.
Attached you will find two documents, the COVID19 Back to Campus Preparedness Plan and a sample of signage you will see posted around our campuses and extended sites. Below are some highlights and expectations of that 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:
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.
All employees and students will be asked to self-monitor their symptoms on a daily basis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A robust communication plan and timeline is under development and will be pushed out over the next couple of weeks.
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,
Barbara McDonald, Ed.D
I would like to thank all of you who were able to join the Conversation with the President this week. Our gathering is again a reminder of the Rule of Benedict which speaks to the importance of gathering the whole community together for conversation and input, particularly at times of challenge and change. Thank you for sending in your questions, for submitting additional questions and for the time you took to listen with the ear of your heart as we navigate these very difficult times. I am grateful for your perspectives, feedback, comments and most of all for your patience as we work towards a brighter future. Watch for an email next week that summarizes what we covered, including questions that we didn’t have time to address. If you’d like to schedule group Zoom follow ups to our conversation or would like to reach out personally for a conversation, please don’t hesitate to contact Cari McMillan or me so we can arrange for that.
In the midst of great societal challenge and change, it is often hard to focus on our daily routines when these can feel minor to the enormity of what lies ahead of us as we are called to right injustices, respond to the pandemic and navigate our financial difficulties. We look for the strength of our faith and our Benedictine mission which reminds us that more than ever that we are needed as stewards who strive to send forth thoughtful leaders prepared and committed to serve and transform the world. And to achieve that, we need to prepare to welcome our learners back to our campus, to our extended sites, and to our online programs.
Today’s communication will focus on the Pandemic Planning underway through the Saints Rise Up (SRU) Steering Committee including a few updates on fall planning efforts.
The SRU Steering Committee subgroups include over 23 groups working on plans for a safe return to our campuses and sites for fall semester. At present we are planning on a “hybrid” approach of face-to-face, virtual and online combinations to meet the needs, health and safety of our faculty, staff and students. Plans are being guided by the MDH higher education task force which are now providing direction on social distancing protocols, testing and tracing, models for residential living, and so on. In addition, we are focused on safe protocols for employees returning to their work spaces. As per the Governor’s current recommendations, employees who are able to perform their work obligations remotely, should continue to do so. Any employee who has questions or concerns should contact their supervisor.
SRU Steering Committee actions underway:
I want to sincerely thank all those involved in the many plans under development, and especially recognize Mike Turner for his leadership in pandemic planning efforts! Not all committees were mentioned in this communication, so much more work is underway that will be forthcoming to you as plans develop. It’s with the wisdom and great dedication of our faculty, staff and students that we are able to make the best plans for the upcoming academic year. If you are not involved, but wish to be, please don’t hesitate to contact Mike Turner with your interest.
Thank you and enjoy the weekend ahead.
Barbara McDonald, Ed.D
I am reaching out to provide you with an update on preparations for fall semester 2020. Last Friday, May 15, I received the final recommendation from the Rapid Response Team, an appointed group of faculty and staff charged with determining our best course of action for a safe return in the fall. The Cabinet reviewed the recommendations and approved moving forward with this plan in line with the guidance provided by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Accordingly, we plan to reopen our Duluth and extended campuses this fall, including our residence halls. Courses on those campuses will be taught using a mixture of in-person and virtual methods for the fall semester. Students in our fully online programs will not experience any change to the delivery of their courses.
In making this decision, we have drawn upon the best resources and information available. However, please know that this plan remains flexible and could change if pandemic circumstances require it. The safety of our students, faculty and staff will remain our top priority.
To ensure our success, I have established the Saints Rise Up (SRU) Steering Committee as an advisory leadership body to guide our safe return to campus and sites. The SRU Steering Committee will build on the foundational work of our Pandemic Planning Team, working in tandem with the Pandemic Team to develop workplans and timelines that address each area of the College’s life. We will keep the College community updated throughout this crucial process via email and at css.edu/coronavirus.
As we prepare to welcome students back this fall, in person and virtually, some of our considerations include:
Moving forward we will, as always, look to the innovative spirit of our founding Sisters and be guided by our mission and Benedictine Values as we make decisions. We will continue to closely monitor guidance from Gov. Walz, the MDH, and the CDC on campus reopenings and public health protocols.
We will be providing more detailed information to you as these plans are developed and finalized. Thank you to our entire community as you continue to show an inspiring unity of purpose during this extraordinary time. I am so very proud of the ways in which all of you have come together to further our mission and serve our students. I look forward to welcoming all of you - faculty, staff and our continuing and new students - this fall.
Have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend!
Barbara McDonald, Ed.D
Congratulations to our graduates! On Sunday, May 10th, we recognized our 2020 graduates with a virtual commencement celebration. A big thank you to the marketing and communication team who pulled the wonderful video together. We congratulate our students for their achievements this semester and wish those moving on to new chapters the very best! We also look forward to celebrating these graduates in person, scheduled for the third week in December. Planning will soon be underway!
On Wednesday Governor Walz issued his latest executive orders and shared updates on next steps in easing restrictions. The Stay at Home order will expire May 18th and will be replaced with Stay Safe Minnesota guidelines that allow more businesses and other entities to re-open in a safe manner.
Our Pandemic Team is considering next steps for a slow migration to opening our sites over the summer months. The Team is finalizing the CSS Employee Re-Entry/Safe Return to Work plan following guidelines from the MDH and CDC this week.
For now, our current campus access protocols will remain in place until the Re-Entry/Safe Return to Work Plan is completed and approved by the Cabinet towards the end of May. Employees seeking permission to be on campus should continue to seek supervisor approval.
Keep in mind that the Governor’s latest orders emphasized that those who can work remotely should continue this practice. Therefore, we will continue to have employees work remotely if their job duties allow for it.
In addition, the Governor’s orders continue to prohibit large crowd gatherings. Employees working on site should continue to practice safe social distancing and refrain from gathering in groups. We also encourage all employees to practice these protocols in their daily lives to ensure the safety of the broader community. Even as the Governor “turns the dial” on restrictions, the virus continues to spread. We need to remain vigilant and uphold our responsibility to keep others safe.
By the end of May, we will be launching new protocols to slowly and safely expand employee access to our Duluth sites, in line with MDH and CDC recommendations (more information about extended sites will be forthcoming as well). Stay tuned for additional information to come your way on protocol guidelines as we keep you informed of next steps.
Our cross-functional Rapid Response Team will deliver their fall scenario recommendations today (May 15) and the Cabinet will act on the recommendations next week. Then, between mid-May and mid-June, cross-functional committees will begin forming action plans for all college areas for the fall semester. In parallel, a communication plan will accompany this work so that we can clearly inform our employees, students and families, and the public of our decisions.
Professional Development: Over the summer we are committed to providing professional development for faculty and staff to continue to advance best practices in virtual learning and scholarship. This week’s faculty Professional Development Day included spring semester reflections on what went well and what could be improved. We have learned a lot and want to ensure our faculty and supporting staff are prepared for a number of scenarios going into fall semester.
We must keep in mind flexibility in the event that we need to “dial it back” should the COVID-19 situation require it. We will hope for the best and plan for the worse!
Enrollment Update: Thanks to the collaborative work of academic affairs and enrollment management, our summer strategy is seeing positive outcomes. Our overall summer enrollment goals are on target, with students taking advantage of new courses added to the schedule. Our spring to fall retention appears to be strong as well, although with unknowns for fall term this could shift. The deadline for fall deposits is June 1; at the moment we are lagging from last year and continue to anticipate a drop in enrollment for fall. We’ll continue to keep you updated as things develop.
Reminder: The Voluntary Furlough/Reduction in Pay program is available through the rest of today, May 15, 2020. This opportunity falls under Phase One of actions being taken to address the COVID-19 budget impact. Further steps will be considered under Phase Two once the analysis is completed on the impact of our adjustments to date. A sincere thank you to those of you who stepped up to volunteer. It’s greatly appreciated!
CARES Act Emergency Funding: The 2,141 CSS students who qualified under the federal guidelines were notified that they would be receiving CARES Act Emergency Funds. Many sent positive messages such as "Thank you so much! This email has lifted up so much pressure off my chest! The finance team will be running the checks and direct deposits early next week. Thank you to all who worked through this process.
Emergency Funds for students: In addition, students who do not qualify have access to emergency funds that can be requested through student affairs by contacting Megan Perry Spears email@example.com
Additional CARES Act revenue: The College was awarded an additional $78,571 appropriated in the CARES Act because we have an active NEPQR — Registered Nurse in Primary Care award. The funds support recipients to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19). This was unexpected and gladly received.
The second half of the initial CARES Act Stabilization funds, — $1,137,462 — is being processed and will arrive soon. These funds will partially offset operational expenses incurred to COVID-19.
Travel Restrictions and P-Card Update: Travel restrictions for college-sponsored domestic and international travel are extended until August 15. P-Card restrictions and supervisor approval on spending is also extended through August 15. If you have concerns, please contact your supervisor.
Student Mental Health: If faculty and staff are worried about a student experiencing a mental health concern, they can contact Counseling Services by calling 218-723-6085, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The final Title IX regulations from the Office of Civil Rights was announced May 6th, the most extensive changes since the inception of the rule. Melissa Watschke, Title IX Coordinator has been reviewing critical changes in order to roll out the regulations by the required implementation date of August 14, 2020. While some changes to the Title IX regulations are very concerning, we are compelled to enact the regulations using the mission and the Benedictine Values and a student-centered process in complying with the new standards. In order maintain this lens, Melissa created a core team comprised of Zach Babcock, Campus Security; Teresa Guerrero, The Student Center for Health and Well-Being; Michelle Ruszat Klee, Violence Intervention and Prevention; and the Title IX Deputies Stacy Deadrick and David Bauman, to advise and oversee operations and training of the Title IX office. I want to thank this group for coming together collaboratively as we meet the August deadline requirements.
We received excellent news coverage last weekend for our virtual commencement celebration, which included a congratulatory video.
Bre Cole, one of our McNair Scholars who's going to a PhD program for virology, was featured on WDIO-TV Channel 10. Steve Lyons talked with a reporter from KBJR-TV Channel 6. Students Mitchell Gertken, Lexie DeWall and Keely Jackson were highlighted in a long piece that led the newscast for FOX-TV Channel 21. We also had very robust social media engagement, including Facebook posts that reached more than 62,000 people. I think the public got the message that the College was honoring our graduates as best we could despite the circumstances!
In this time of great uncertainty, I have witnessed how the Saints community has come together with humility, kindness, and encouragement — to be that hope and light for one another. Thank you for caring for one another and our students, for “listening with the ear of your heart” and for living our Benedictine Values. Together we will lean into our faith, knowing that “this too shall pass”, and continue our creative work as we plan for summer and fall.
Have a wonderful weekend and stay safe!
As we close out the semester, we are missing one of the most important celebrations of the year, our Commencement, which has been postponed until December. There are many mixed emotions to be sure, deep disappointment, sadness and loss, and a sense of things unfinished.
Despite this reality, the Saints spirit of community has risen up again in creative ways to celebrate our amazing 2020 graduates! Be sure to check out the upcoming May 10th video commemorating our graduating students set to begin at 2:00 p.m.
And thank you to the many programs that are holding special virtual events. And a big shout out to Mayor Larson and the City of Duluth for their plan to light up the Aerial Bridge (May 10th) blue and gold in honor of our Saints. Look for our own Tower Hall to be cloaked in blue lighting as well. Our Alumni electronic kudo board, social media and our website will all be singing the praises of the class of 2020 in recognition of their great achievements and resilience.
And we have YOU to thank for getting our students over the finish line. To a person, you have made a difference, you have lived out our Benedictine Values in the face of adversity, uncertainty and unprecedented change, and you have made us all very proud. Thank you sincerely, for being that hope for our learners and for each other.
With a renewed spirit of Bold and Benedictine, we are turn our attention to next steps in our Pandemic Planning for fall semester. I want to give you a sense of our timelines for decisions moving forward:
Over the summer months we expect to finalize and implement best practice action plans to ensure the Fall scenario is successful. In addition, the Cabinet will be closely monitoring the financials and will take up additional measures under Phase Two to ensure our financial position.
Between Thursday, May 14, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. and Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. all students will be able to submit their grade elections for the substitution of Spring 2020 final grades to the A-F or Credit/No Credit option. This is a one-time offer and students will not be able to go back and re-select options. Grade changes will be processed by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020. Students are strongly encouraged to work with their Academic Advisor in making their decision.
The link to the online form will be distributed to the College community next week via CSS email, and published on the OneStop page of Cor and to the Grading Policy FAQs page. A video is also available to students that explains the process.
The December Commencement will serve both the spring commencement students as well as those graduating in the Fall. Due to DECC logistics, the commencement exercises will be staged over a two-day period and will be held on campus. We are hoping to expand the celebration to include a week of events honoring the 2020 graduates. Stay tuned for more information as things develop. For questions, reach out to Steve Lyons, Vice President of Student Affairs.
It's May 1, another milestone with spring on our doorsteps! Typically, May marks a month of celebrations such as commencement, end-of-the-year gatherings, and graduation festivities. Instead, the campus and extended sites' hallways and classrooms are eerily quiet. But we have much to celebrate! Much to be thankful for; we have exemplified our Benedictine Values in ways we never imagined. Our situation has brought new meaning to these words: Love of Learning, Hospitality, Stewardship, Community and Respect. And new meaning to what it means "to be present," how we exemplified this before COVID-19, and what we hope to do differently once we can gather together.
What new ways have you experienced these values? What new perspectives and blessings have we found in our lives? As you think about these questions, please be sure to read the wonderful End of the Year Blessing from Campus Ministry written by Mark Hakes, which is attached. Thank you Mark, for your wise words!
We learned this week from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz that the Stay at Home order has been extended to May 18, with some retail reopening for curb-side pickup. To learn more about the latest announcements, you can view the governor's address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5w5-F10Mf4
As one headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education put it, "Planning for the Fall Is Like Driving Through a Dense Fog"! Thankfully, we have an outstanding cross-functional group of folks working through the mist to create and analyze several potential scenarios for how we return to CSS in the fall term. These Rapid Response Teams and subcommittees will be presenting their recommendations to the Cabinet by May 15. Our goal is to move forward with a decision for all by mid-June.
The Office of Higher Education and Minnesota Department of Health will want to ensure we have a solid plan in place that takes into consideration the recommendations from the MDH. Several St. Scholastica employees have volunteered to serve on the MHD small-group planning teams around creating guidelines.
As part of Phase One in managing an expected significant financial deficit caused by the pandemic situation, the administration rolled out the voluntary program for employees this week. A big thank you to Terri Van Reese, HR staff and Marty Parsons for their work in putting this program together (see email from Marty Parsons). For steps already taken in Phase One, please refer to last week's communication.
And in full transparency, we are considering other measures if we need to move to a Phase Two to address our financials. However, we are leaning into our Benedictine Values at this point to see how together, the voluntary program can help us with our financial issues. I thank you in advance for your consideration!
The Committee continues to meet regularly. The team is now focused on creating a ‘Return to Campus' plan for employees, led by Terri Van Reese and Mike Turner. We are taking a "slow migration" approach to this, with flexibility and a focus on the needs of the employees. Best practice guidelines, training and procedures for safe return are a top priority.
You can access the live update on summer event cancelations and postponements through this link: The Summer Events Schedule.
Did you participate in the Feast of St. Benedict online retreat on our value of the year, respect? Good news! The retreat content will remain available to you. Didn't get a chance to register for the retreat? Or registered but didn't accept the invitation to Classroom? No worries! If you already registered but did not accept the invitation, simply go to that email and accept the invitation and you will be all set. If you have not registered but would like to view the materials, please contact Sister Kathleen Del Monte at email@example.com.
And finally, talk about Saints! Several of our nursing alumni are volunteering to help treat COVID-19 patients in New York City. Here's aKBJR-TV Channel 6 piece on 2016 grad Molly Jazdzewski. Here's a story fromWDIO-TV Channel 10 about Vui Aipperspach. And here's a piece on Firestar Charette from the Twin Cities' KARE-TV Channel 11. I couldn't be prouder!
Have a wonderful weekend - please remember that balance in life is so important, especially during this new reality. Enjoy the warm weather the State is expecting to see this weekend, be good to yourself and find some time to relax! Stay well!
Happy Friday! Spring is in the air as we celebrate a season of renewal and hope — something we definitely could use these days.
My deepest appreciation for the tremendous ongoing work of the faculty, staff and our students as we move through the last weeks of the semester. Here we are at the end of week 4 of our virtual environment, and you all continue to Rise Up to meet the challenges.
What we yearn for most, we can’t have right now — to be together in person to celebrate important milestones like commencement, to work side-by-side in classrooms, in our clinical settings and labs, and to cheer on our student athletes — to name a few that come to mind. If we have discovered, or perhaps rediscovered anything, it’s a deep appreciation of our humanity, our love for learning, our love for each other, and the importance of the human connection. Stay connected, stay strong, you are a remarkable and resilient people!
A few updates to share with you:
Have a wonderful weekend, take time to enjoy the outdoors (safely) and thank you again for all your hard work.
This week we heard from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz that the state's stay-at-home order is extended to May 4. This precautionary move will allow our healthcare community more time to prepare for the expected COVID-19 surge and to keep our communities safe. Although this is not the news we were hoping for, we have seen the positive impact this order has had on mitigating the spread of the virus. So, we'll stay the course and hope for the best.
We have a few updates for you as we close out the third week back from our extended spring break:
Our team continues to meet regularly. Among the developments:
A reminder that the IT Help Desk is regularly open 7 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week. However, this week it is closed on Sunday, April 12, in observance of Easter. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org — you can also leave a message (218) 723-5911.
Our HR team has put together a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) with new updates regarding benefits coverage for those immediately impacted by COVID-19, as well as information about the CARES Act and related benefit changes, and Wellness info for employees. Please see the attached document or go to http://www.css.edu/administration/safety-and-security/coronavirus/coronavirus-faqs.html#benefits.
The Department of Education will be providing specific guidelines for the federal funding being distributed to higher education. You can refer to these links to see the distribution to higher education institutions: U.S. DoE chart of fund distribution. In addition, there's a letter from Secretary DeVos: DeVos Letter with limited guidance. The College of St. Scholastica is expecting a little over $2.2 million dollars in relief to offset the impact of COVID-19; however, this is still being finalized. Specific guidance will be forthcoming through NIACU in the coming days.
This season continues to challenge us. Yet our educational mission is moving forward in spite of the dislocations and uncertainties, thanks to your remarkable dedication, focus and flexibility. I am so proud to call you my colleagues!
Wishing you a happy and blessed Easter, and continued good health for you and your loved ones. And remember, #SaintsRiseUp!
If you have questions, please email or call us.
If you're not feeling well, please call Student Health Services or your health provider instead of going in-person.
Student Health Service
Somers Hall, Room 42
Phone: (218) 723-6282
Fax: (218) 723-5953
Essentia Health Urgent Care
400 East Third Street
Essentia Health Nurse Care Line
St. Luke's Lakeview Building
915 East First Street