WC: COVID-19 Response

A message from President Kurt Landgraf, Aug. 3, 2020

Washington College Moves All Fall 2020 Classes Online

In June, we reported that Washington College was on track to reopen safely for the Fall 2020 semester with a significant number of residential students. COVID-19 cases were on the decline across the country, and we expected that testing with timely results would be widely available. We also committed to monitor closely local, state, and national trends and modify our plans as necessary, based on public health considerations and our ability to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.  

Unfortunately, those initial plans must be modified.

COVID-19 trends are going in the wrong direction nationally, in Maryland, and in Kent County. Based on the latest guidance from federal, state, and local medical experts and public officials, we anticipate that matters may worsen in the weeks ahead. The resurgence has adversely impacted the availability of tests and associated turnaround time for results needed to satisfy CDC-aligned testing protocols. Despite our efforts, it is apparent that these factors are simply too great to overcome and our original plan to have students to return to campus and in person classes must be revised.

Washington College’s highest priorities are protecting the health and safety of our community, and providing an extraordinary academic experience. In light of these priorities, and in consultation with the Washington College Contingency Planning Group and the Board of Visitors and Governors, I have made these difficult decisions:

  • We will not be reconvening in person as a community on August 24
  • Fall Semester courses at Washington College will be offered online
  • The majority of students will study remotely, except as explained below
  • We remain hopeful for a return to campus in the spring, and will continue to plan for this result.

Our faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare for a traditional fall semester, but COVID’s specter was always top of mind. Our careful contingency planning enables us to fulfill our commitment to offering a top-flight robust academic experience to our students, and we have realigned our efforts and resources to better support online learning

  • Faculty have been engaged in course planning and workshops throughout the summer in preparation for a fall that we expected could include remote learning.
  • All fall courses, except those that are always graded pass/fail, will use letter grades, not pass/fail.

Our Student Life staff and your Student Government Association remain focused on building community and social connections by working with student organizations to support a wide range of virtual activities, programs, and opportunities. 

Under this new plan, a limited number of students may receive permission to live on campus or access campus facilities. Only students with a critical need for on-campus housing will be authorized to live on campus. Critical needs include students who lack another housing option or require campus access for graduation. Students living on or near campus will still take all of their courses online and campus facilities will be restricted. Students who wish to apply for permission to return to campus, whether to live in a residence hall or to access other facilities, must complete the form here.

Room and board charges will be reversed for students who are not living on campus. We are also announcing a change to our tuition rate for the coming academic year. We are reversing the previously announced tuition increase for this year. This year’s rate will remain the same as last year’s. We will send updated bills and awards letters as quickly as possible.

Only applicable fees will be charged, including the health fee and the orientation fee for first-year students. The student service fee will be reduced by more than 50% for all students in the fall semester. 

We know that you will have many questions. You will find answers to Frequently Asked Questions on this COVID-19 Response website. 

We are also scheduling follow-up video forums this week where members of the College leadership will answer questions and speak in more detail about the plans for the fall semester. Participants who have additional questions after reading the FAQs will be able to submit those while registering sessions. Below are the links to register for these sessions.

Freshmen and Parents Fall 2020 Information Session

Wednesday, Aug. 5, 5:30-7:00 pm

Register in advance for this webinar

Returning Students and Parents Fall 2020 Information Session

Thursday, Aug. 6, 5:30-7:00 pm

Register in advance for this webinar

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

My thanks to the entire Washington College community – students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends of the College – for your unwaivering support and patience during this difficult time. Best wishes for a pleasant and healthy remainder of the summer. As we make our way through this unprecedented time in our history, we can take comfort in the fact that the Washington College community has a long history of taking care of one another in good times and bad. 

— Kurt Landgraf

 

Previous Communications

All students, employees, and visitors to campus are required to wear a mask any time they are on campus or on any Washington College property. Washington College will provide all students and employees with two washable and reusable cloth masks before the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. Masks should adhere to  CDC guidelines.

  • Students may remove their masks when they are alone in their room or during activities where a mask cannot practically be worn, such as eating, drinking, or showering; participating in a varsity sport under the guidance of an athletic department staff member, or playing a musical instrument or singing as part of their coursework under the guidance of a faculty member. Students are also reminded that they should comply with local and state regulations regarding masking when they are off campus. Non-compliance with the masking policy could be considered a violation of the Washington College Honor Code.
  • Employees may remove their masks during activities where a mask cannot practically be worn, such as eating, drinking, and when they are alone in their office if it is an enclosed, private workspace. Employees are also reminded that they should comply with local and state regulations regarding masking when they are off campus.
  • Visitors may remove their masks during activities where a mask cannot practically be worn, such as eating or drinking.
  • Student requests for assistance or accommodation for any COVID-related concerns will be considered on a case-by-case basis. There are no exceptions to the campus mask policy, but reasonable accommodations will be approved and provided based on supporting documentation and the individual experiences of the student. Students making these requests should email Health Services or call 410-778-7261.
  • Employee requests for assistance or accommodation for any COVID-related concerns will be considered on a case-by-case basis. There are no exceptions to the campus mask policy, but reasonable accommodations will be approved and provided based on supporting documentation and the individual experiences of the employee. Employees making these requests should contact Human Resources

 We are eager to resume the personal, transformational educational experience for which Washington College is so well known. As my last update on Fall 2020 announced, Washington College will be reopening in August for an on-campus, in-person start, but we will also be building in the flexibility to enable those who are unable to be on campus to participate remotely. It is my intention to open the campus to as many students who wish to return and who may be accommodated according to the latest guidance. While we are planning to have most classes available for in-person learning, there will be a number of courses that students will be able to take no matter where they are. Our faculty are also prepared to deliver planned in-person classes remotely, should applicable public health orders or guidance make this necessary at any point during the semester.

Campus administrators and educators have been working diligently to develop and implement Washington College’s reopening strategy. We are collaborating with local healthcare systems and authorities on a reopening plan that places health and safety at the forefront, focuses on optimal student learning, and complies with state, CDC, and other public health standards.

We are preparing to carry out our mission in some new ways this fall. Understandably, how we live, learn, and work together will need to be different.

I know some of you are wondering about the uncertainty on various points of this reopening plan as we have been tracking the trajectory of the pandemic and the intentions of various governing bodies, including the CDC, the State of Maryland, Maryland’s Higher Education Commission, the local health department, and our athletic conference. We collected your questions and did our best to address the areas of main concern in a forum last week. The recording of that meeting can be found here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/6NJnc7vCzWNJHqvu90j0a_ARGN-0aaa8hyZP_fAPmgYQsZsU4WvZc1Y7frvlO7E

Here is what we are able to confirm at this point, with additional details to be released throughout the weeks ahead. Much of this plan has been communicated, but we are giving dates by which we will be able to report additional details.

Adjusted academic calendar. We are adjusting the fall calendar to minimize the potential campus exposure that would likely result from students traveling and returning over breaks, particularly breaks in the mid-to-late fall. The fall 2020 calendar will be moved up by one week, with classes beginning Monday, August 24. We will eliminate fall break and end the on-campus portion of the semester before Thanksgiving. We will complete the final weeks of instruction and finals online after Thanksgiving break. A move-in schedule will be communicated by mid-to-late July 2020.

Course delivery. Washington College is committed to offering residential, face-to-face instruction as part of its experience this fall. We wish we could absolutely guarantee that this will occur, but of course, our method of learning depends on then applicable government orders and applicable public health authority guidance. Many faculty are adopting blended instruction and teaching models to address the reality that, in order to ensure social distancing, we will have fewer students in classrooms at any one time. Our faculty will also be preparing alternate plans for delivery of their course in the event they or their students are unable to be in the classroom in person. So, if students are not comfortable or able to attend in person, we still welcome you to begin classes with us this fall. Assignment of first-year advisors to freshmen will take place by July 15.

Central to our preparations are proactive health and safety measures in our in-person classroom setting. For instance, to achieve social distance, some classroom assignments may be changed from typical locations while other courses may employ a staggered model of rotating the days when students attend face-to-face and the days when students attend remotely throughout the week. While the model used to support social distancing may vary from course to course, every course will be designed and delivered in a way that provides an equitable, effective learning opportunity for students, whether they are present face-to-face or learning remotely. This type of high-flexibility, high-quality course delivery will provide students the most options based on their individual health needs and comfort level.

Student housing and dining. We are currently working on a residential plan that will incorporate social distancing principles for on-campus living spaces. Generally, this will mean only one person per room in the residence halls and very limited sharing of restrooms. Because of reduced capacity, we will be able to allow a few more students to move off campus. This does not change our standing policy moving forward of a four-year residency requirement but given these extraordinary circumstances, we are reviewing requests from students who were originally planning to live on campus who wish to move off for this academic year only. We will extend the normal 30-mile radius restriction this year only and will consider requests to commute from homes that are farther than 30 miles away.

Given the above measures, we believe at this point that we should be able to accommodate every student who wants to have the in-person campus experience with a room on campus, living off-campus, or commuting.

Consequently, we have already reached out to our students who live on campus to gather information about their intentions around returning to campus and that will include information about a review of additional requests to move off campus.  Similarly, campus dining venues are being prepared to accommodate social distance and incorporate proactive safety measures. More details on student housing and dining plans will be communicated by July 1.

On-campus healthcare. Health Services is aligning its resources to continue to provide for the routine health needs of our students, while simultaneously navigating this public health crisis. This includes:

  • Developing a daily screening protocol required for all students, employees, and visitors who come to campus
  • providing resources and developing clear, concise protocols for COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and containment
  • identifying locations and support protocols for students who need to be isolated or quarantined on campus
  • proactive stocking of personal protective equipment (PPE)

Students and employees will receive additional details about on-campus health protocols and resources for the fall 2020 semester by July 15.

Campus deep cleaning. This summer, staff are deep cleaning and disinfecting all areas of campus, focusing additional attention on high-traffic and common-use areas. Teams will be installing hand sanitizing stations, thinning out furniture/seating, and adding signage to help with social distancing. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols will continue throughout the fall session in compliance with all state and CDC guidelines to help protect our campus community.

We are also in the process of developing detailed plans and protocols for:

  • Reopening of studio and lab spaces, Miller Library, the fitness center, athletic facilities, and other campus common-use areas;
  • Cocurricular programming—including athletics, the arts, and student clubs and organizations
  • Off-campus programs, including a decision on when we can safely resume study abroad
  • Employee work practices and spaces
  • Campus visitors and events

While each student’s health and safety is our highest priority, no one, including the College, can guarantee a COVID-19-free environment.  Members of our community will experience COVID-19 infections this fall. That’s why it is vitally important we consider the task of minimizing the risk of COVID-19 infections and the spread of disease to be a shared responsibility. All members of the community must do their part. In addition to basic hand hygiene (frequent washing and sanitizing) and respiratory etiquette (not coughing into one’s hand or in close proximity to others), this includes adhering to any measures that the College deems appropriate such as temperature checks, social distancing, wearing cloth face coverings where required, not reporting to work or class if you feel sick, and isolating or quarantining when required. Everyone’s compliance is necessary not only for their own safety but for the safety of others.

We plan to communicate additional details and information to students, their families and employees no later than August 1. It is essential that you continue to watch your email throughout the summer for the most current information.

If we each come prepared to do our part—to be patient, flexible, and supportive of each other—I am confident that we will have a great fall semester.

June 12, 2020

I am writing to provide an update on our planning process for the fall semester and to give you a sense of how we will be making and communicating decisions.

Our faculty, staff, and students worked extraordinarily hard over the past two months to deliver the Washington College experience through online classes and conversations. We are bringing the community together, recruiting students, teaching classes, and completing office work, all in a virtual environment. We are making the most of a challenging situation. Our strengths before the pandemic—a tight-knit, caring community, dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes—have enabled us to continue to deliver the same quality academic experience online.

Even as we finish the spring semester, we have been thinking carefully about what comes next—in particular, what the fall semester at Washington College will look like. I have convened a Contingency Planning Group to prepare us for the fall. They are considering various scenarios and ensuring that we will be ready for them all. This group will give regular updates on their progress and invite members of the campus community to share ideas and concerns. All decision-making will be guided by Governor Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery.

I would like to state very clearly my view on our starting point. It is our intention to return to campus in the fall semester, with the precautions, protocols, and new daily routines needed to stay safe.

We are especially advantaged in some ways. We have a spacious campus, and we offer small class sizes. We have the ability to limit vehicle access to campus. These are real advantages in our effort to maintain everyone’s health and safety.  

While we are prepared to deliver our academic program remotely for the fall, as of right now, the start date of August 31 is our goal for returning to in-person classes. We will give you updates as our planning work proceeds and as we learn more about the way that the pandemic is unfolding.  

This is a remarkable community that has come together to face a challenge. You know what my priorities are—a return to campus as soon and as safely as possible. At this moment, we cannot make definitive statements about the future, but I can say that we will be straightforward and considerate in our approach and will communicate decisions as soon as they are finalized. I ask for your patience and understanding.

CARES Act Funds:
Washington College did receive funding for students impacted by COVID-19.  Students received an email on May 5 with a link for them to fill out requesting funds for their need.  Qualifications for CARES Act Funds:
The Department of Education has placed restrictions on the CARES Act Relief Funds. In order to receive these funds, students must be eligible to receive Title IV aid. This means that students must have a valid FAFSA on file and must be meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress. Students will be reviewed for eligibility upon receipt of the application. If you are not sure if you meet these criteria, we encourage you to fill out the application regardless. Washington College Emergency Funds are available to all enrolled Washington College students and can be used for those not eligible for the CARES Act funds.What if you don’t qualify for CARES Act funds?
Still fill out the form that was in the May 5th email.  Washington College has raised money to support our students and we are dedicated to helping our students get through this difficult time.  Time table: 
Please allow 5 to 7 days for us to review your application. If you have not yet setup direct deposit, you are encouraged to do so on Student Self Service as soon as possible. Students without direct deposit will have a check mailed, which will delay the receipt of the funds. Grants will be automatically awarded to students regardless of any existing credit or balance owed. Where is the link to apply?
The link has been sent to every student.  Please check your Washington College email address.  If you have specific questions please email 

 

Kindness, generosity, and compassion are on display every day as we work through this public health crisis. Staff members on campus need vinyl gloves? Kent County’s Office of Emergency Services can deliver. Short on hand sanitizer? LaMotte Chemical Company recently whipped up a batch according to CDC protocols. What about face masks, now required when we’re out and about in public? Members of the local community responding to the Face Mask Challenge spend their evenings at their sewing machines, and Ben Qi Wang, an international student remaining on campus, generously donated a shipment of 700 surgical masks his parents sent to him from home. He wanted to make sure that everyone working and living on campus is protected. Washington College’s classrooms and residence halls may be dark, but the heart of Washington College beats on.

In Kent County, where there are now 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, College officials are making plans for what comes next. President Kurt Landgraf has formed a Contingency Planning Group to consider various scenarios for safely reopening campus this fall. All decisions will adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s emergency orders, which now require all individuals to wear cloth face coverings while visiting retail outlets or riding public transportation. This includes students picking up food in Hodson Hall, all campus visitors, and staffers greeting visitors at the campus gatehouse.

We know that many of our students took only the most important personal items with them when they left campus but, given the Governor’s stay-at-home orders, we are taking a cautious approach to vacating campus housing. We hope that those orders will be lifted by the end of May.

Many students and parents have asked about room and board refunds. We expect to have the mechanics in place on our website by next Friday, April 24, for you to choose a refund or credit, or to donate your credit back to Washington College. Eligible student accounts will be credited by May 1. You can expect a letter outlining options and instructions next Friday.

Until then, be safe.