SaintsRiseUp Safe Return | Campus Reopening Updates

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) information

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.

Important updates

Please see the updates below for important information regarding the following:

  • Academics: Summer semester courses will be offered in a virtual format. For the fall semester, courses will be taught using a mixture of remote, virtual and in-person methods.
  • Students: All student support services continue to be available during this period. 
  • Residential Halls: Will be open this fall. Detailed information from Residence Life staff will be provided to students later in the summer. 
  • Faculty and Staff: Only approved faculty and staff are allowed on campus.
  • Travel: The College has suspended all domestic and international travel.

Important resources

Community updates

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:

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.

All employees and students will be asked to self-monitor their symptoms on a daily basis.

  • Students will access our medical records system to “check in” daily. If they are showing symptoms, SHS will follow up with them.
  • 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.

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.


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.

  • By the end of next week, the SaintsRiseUp Safe Return webpage, /SafeReturn, (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,

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:

  • The College has submitted a general plan to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on the safe return of employees to their worksites. The College is now looking at the specific requirements that will guide the return and what resources we will need in place to ensure safety for all. For example, policies on masks, social distancing, how we “office” and utilize our teaching spaces, and a plan for testing.
  • Academic Affairs committees are working the complex task of fall scheduling and delivery options for the curriculum. Over the summer faculty are invited to participate in the Eue Summer Institute on Virtual Learning which will focus on continued preparation for virtual learning as well as best practices in culturally relevant pedagogy and other topics. We must be prepared to “pivot” as needed, depending on the COVID19 circumstances and a possible “surge”. In other words, assuming the best, but preparing for the worst, should we need to revert to a virtual situation during the fall semester.
  • Student Affairs subcommittees on housing, student life, advising, athletics, are all putting plans in place for a smooth transition this fall. MHD has recently released guidance for residential living and athletics is following guidance from the NCAA to inform their plans.
  • The Marketing and Communication Committee is working on CSS safe return guidelines with FAQs that will be issued soon to all employees. They are preparing a web presence for all plans and materials to be posted. In addition, the SRU communications subcommittee will be preparing video messaging and a PowerPoint presentation that will be distributed to the College. The Committee is also coordinating efforts for a return to campus “kit” for all employees and students which will include masks, sanitizers and other materials.
  • The College continues to consult closely with MDH officials who recently made a visit to the Duluth campus. They overviewed our spaces and consulted with our health, safety and facilities folks on how we might approach areas such as Storm’s Den, our residence halls, classrooms, etc. to maintain MDH recommended standards. Christine Sandal and Mike Turner are in close communication in planning CSS’s approach for testing and tracing protocols as well. In addition, a subcommittee is also focused on the specific needs and protocols for the fall return at our extended sites, understanding that some of those sites located at community college partner locations will most likely adhere to those organizations' requirements.
  • St. Scholastica, together with the Minnesota Private College Council, is working collaboratively in the area of purchasing for needed equipment and supplies to control costs. The CSS Purchasing Department will be centrally coordinating these efforts for our college.
  • The SRU Committee will be pushing out a survey to employees asking for their input with regard to the return to campus. This is under development and will be issued before the end of the month. A similar survey is being considered for our students as well.
  • Domestic Travel: The SRU Committee reviewed requests from Athletics and Enrollment Management to allow for specific traveling around our critical recruiting efforts. The Committee recommended that domestic travel be allowed for these situations upon approval by the supervisor, provided COVID19 social distancing and quarantine protocols be followed. A revised travel form will be developed to allow for the college-sponsored travel exceptions.
  • Campus visits are planned to resume on June 22nd with accepted students. Individual families will be staggered and visits will follow social distancing protocols.
  • The second half of the CARES Act funding has been received and will be applied in large part to offset costs of room and board reimbursements.

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

As we prepare to welcome students back this fall, in person and virtually, some of our considerations include:

  • Planning for social distancing on campuses, including configuration of classrooms, gathering spaces, offices, etc.
  • Adjusting course schedules and modalities to keep in-person classes small and provide simultaneous virtual class experiences as needed to serve students and faculty needs.
  • Opening residence halls and food service, following MDH guidelines.
  • Preparing our health services to address testing and tracing.
  • Following forthcoming athletic conference guidelines and decisions regarding fall athletics.
  • Updating our health and safety protocols, including best practice preventative measures to keep employees and students safe.

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!

Summer and Fall Planning

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!

Other Updates

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

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

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.  

Good news coverage

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!

With gratitude,


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.

Pandemic Planning

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:

Short Term May/June

  • Virtual summer for academic programs: We will continue in our virtual learning environment through the summer with classes being offered on line or in other virtual modalities.
  • Decisions about summer events: At this time, we are reviewing summer requests for events on the Duluth campus on a weekly basis until the Governor lifts the Stay at Home policy. In general, events for the rest of May and June have either been canceled or postponed. You can stay informed by checking out this link:
  • Decisions about Fall semester return:
    • May 15: The Rapid Response Team will submit an analysis report with scenario recommendations for fall scenarios. The Cabinet will review the report on May 17 and decide on the best option to follow.
    • By early June: We will then be putting together a plan of action that addresses each component of the chosen recommendation, including a communication and marketing plan, with goal of a public announcement in early June.
  • Safe Return to Campus: The Pandemic Team has drafted a re-entry plan for employees. This plan will go to Cabinet for approval in the near future. The plan will include flexible options for employees based on individual circumstances. This work in progress follows recommendations and guidelines from the federal government, the MDH, CDC and the American College Health Association.

Long Term

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.

Grading Policy

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.

Fall Commencement

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.

With gratitude,


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!

Direction from the state

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:

Rapid Response Teams

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.

Voluntary furlough/Voluntary reduction in pay program

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!

Financial aid updates

  • Room and Board credits for students are being applied to students' accounts today. These will be applied first to any balance a student has for the spring semester and then a refund will be sent to the student either via direct deposit or check, based on the student's preference.
  • A committee is working on distribution criteria for the funds we received in emergency student relief from the CARES Act. We are working toward a mid-May disbursement to eligible students, based on the Department of Education's guidelines. We plan to provide funding to as many students as we can, with an emphasis on those with the highest financial need. We are also in the process of applying for the second half of the CARES funding in the same amount. These funds can be used to offset institutional financial impact caused by COVID-19; we are still waiting for those specific guidelines.
  • If you have students sharing with you that they or their family's financial circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19, please put them in touch with Trish Johnson in our financial aid office. She can help the student determine which, if any, of the different sources of emergency funding we have that can help the student, and/or if we are able to make adjustments to their financial aid for the 2020-21 academic year.

Pandemic Planning Committee update 

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.

Canceled/postponed events on the Duluth campus

You can access the live update on summer event cancelations and postponements through this link: The Summer Events Schedule.

Mission Integration 

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

Good news coverage

Our St. Cloud build-out, which I referenced last week, has earned a wave of positive media coverage, including from radio stationWJON-FM andKNSI-FM, the St. Cloud Times and theSartellMN News Leaders.

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!

With gratitude,


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:

Open Forum: Hold the Date

  • A reminder that the Cabinet will be holding a college-wide Open Forum, on Thursday, April 23rd from 1:30-3 pm. Please mark your calendars. This will be held via Zoom. Please stay tuned for an invitation to attend.

Summer Schedule and Events

  • With Gov. Walz extension of Stay at Home, and the continued modeling for the State, the decision has been made to continue to deliver our courses and student services online through the summer. 
  • We are also in the process of canceling summer activities and events on a rolling timeline. Most face-to-face Duluth-based events have been cancelled through the end of May. We will be providing a link to a running list of events on our COVID-19 information page next week so you can track what is going on.

Fall Semester Speculation

  • We are very aware of the national and state-wide higher education conversations regarding fall semester and what FY21 as a whole might look like. Administration is working collaboratively as we model out scenarios and keep a watchful eye on the COVID19 projections. Our timeline for decision making will most likely take us to June 15, at which time we will be in a better position to project a clearer outlook for fall. We do not want to make decisions too early, but at the same time, our incoming and returning students need answers so that they can make decisions as well.

Commencement and other celebrations

  • With exceptional feedback from our students and from academic affairs, we have made the decision to combine spring and fall commencements and hold the celebration in December (tentatively December 19). The event will take place at the DECC. The day’s schedule will be determined over the next several weeks, looking for the most meaningful way to accommodate undergraduate, non-traditional, graduate and online learners and keep the day manageable in terms of the ceremony’s length.

CARES Act Funding

  • The College has successfully submitted the grant request for the first half of our CARES Act funding coming from the federal government. This first installment totals $1,137,462.00 and is targeted for emergency funds for students. The federal guidelines for these funds are still forthcoming, so distribution will not occur immediately. Requirements include regular reporting, adhering to strict purpose and process guidelines, and acknowledging that institutions can expect an audit to ensure compliance. A team representing finance, student affairs and enrollment are working up scenarios of how students will be supported, dollar amounts, process, and so on. Federal guidelines are expected next week.

Update on Pandemic Team Planning

  • The remaining students on the Duluth campus have moved to the apartments and Somers Hall has been vacated. Students who still have belongings in Somers Hall have been invited to retrieve their items before Monday.
  • The College of St. Scholastica is working with the St. Louis County Emergency Operation Center to house “critical employees” who are supporting the fight against the COVID-19 virus in Duluth and the St. Louis County region. Starting Monday, a small group of these employees will move into Somers Hall. While these employees are with the College, strict controls, daily health screening and isolation requirements are in place to ensure the safety of the critical employees and the St. Scholastica community.

Academic Affairs

  • Academic Affairs continues to adjust to the reality of a rapid transition in course delivery. There have been questions from the faculty about this year's end of course evaluation surveys and the implications of these surveys regarding promotion and tenure. As many of you know, Academic Affairs experienced a "glitch" with the student satisfaction survey system in the fall which created a very low response rate in many cases. Additionally, with the disruption due to COVID -19 there are concerns about the validity of spring course evaluation surveys. After discussion with the Faculty Welfare and Promotion and Tenure Committees it has been decided that end of course evaluation surveys will be conducted but that results will be given to faculty to use as they see fit. Moreover, it will be OPTIONAL whether faculty want to include 2019-2020 student end of course evaluation survey results with their promotion and tenure documentation. Academic Affairs continues to look at all data to learn from this experience, make adjustments and improve the student learning and experience.

Student Affairs

  • Student Affairs has been creating ways to stay connected and supportive of each other during this time. These include the creation of an eclectic coronavirus playlist (songs selected by the staff, thanks to Teresa Guerrero for coordinating), a Student Affairs coronavirus cookbook (with recipes from the staff, thanks to Brittany Heilman for coordinating), and a planned division wide virtual retreat. Student Affairs also sent out a Newsletter to all faculty, staff, and students, to keep communicating information and resources. The cookbook is attached!

Information Technologies

  • IT is committed to ensure your success in remote teaching and learning. The helpdesk is open and available to answer any questions or troubleshoot any problems. If you have special projects or needs, please email Ben Adams, CIO —

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:

Pandemic Planning Update

Our team continues to meet regularly. Among the developments:

  • Additional measures will be implemented at the Duluth campus checkpoint next week. Campus Security will be checking temperatures of all persons being granted access to campus, including authorized employees. Each person will undergo a temperature check via no-touch infrared thermometer. Anyone exhibiting a temperature above 99.5 will not be allowed into the buildings.
  • Security is asking that requests to be on the Duluth campus be initiated through supervisors, managers, and VP's as needed. If an employee feels it is essential to visit campus, the access request must be initiated through the appropriate supervisor, manager or VP. Supervisors will work with Security to approve access requests.
  • The College continues to coordinate with St. Louis County in the event the Duluth campus Somers Hall may be needed to support the emergency needs of our region. Cleaning of Somers Hall is underway and we are very grateful to our housekeeping and facilities staff for their work in preparing these spaces.

IT Help Desk

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 — you can also leave a message (218) 723-5911.

Human Resources Update

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


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!



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Contact Us

If you have questions, please email or call us.
(218) 723-6252

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

Emergency and After-Hours Contacts

Essentia Health Urgent Care
400 East Third Street
Duluth, MN
(218) 786-8364

Essentia Health Nurse Care Line
(218) 725-3110

St. Luke's Lakeview Building
915 East First Street
Duluth, MN
(218) 249-5555