Published: June 25, 2020
To the Thomas College Community,
In early March, Thomas College created a COVID-19 Response Team to help advise, plan, and guide the College through what was to come. Its first task was to quickly map out the transition to remote learning and working. Now, this diverse team of faculty and staff from every area of campus is working on finalizing and implementing the Thomas College Return to Campus Safely Plan.
I promised that during this unprecedented time the College would continually communicate our plans to return to campus as clearly and transparently as possible. I’ve already shared with you some high-level details of this plan and some of the changes you can expect to see this summer and fall, many of which have already been completed or are underway.
We will continue to monitor circumstances and, if needed, will adjust our plans dates accordingly. Rest assured it is our full intention to return to campus for in-person instruction this fall, and we are taking every step possible to ensure your health and safety. The health and safety of the entire Thomas College community is, as always, our top priority.
Return to Campus
Today I’d like to share more in-depth information about the Return to Campus Safely Plan and some next steps for our community. First, here are some key target dates for the fall return to campus and academic semester:
- Course Schedules: Mailings begin July 6, 2020
- Fall Pre-Season Athletes: Begin phase in August 18, 2020
- Early Start Academy students: August 26, 2020
- New Student Orientation: September 5-7, 2020
- Fall Academic Semester start: September 8, 2020
As we move into July, we will provide more specific and individualized details to students about when they should arrive to limit campus traffic and reduce congestion, safety protocols before and after arrival for in-state and out-of-state students, and any additional special measures that need to be taken prior to these dates.
Community Health and Safety
It is our intention to hold a full semester on campus this fall that ends in December. Following new safety protocols and committing to each other to abide by these changes to campus life will give us our best shot at achieving that goal. However, should circumstances require us to modify our approach, we are fully prepared and ready to implement alternative plans for instruction and on-campus schedules, including a return to remote learning.
The Thomas College Return to Campus Safely Plan, currently in development by the COVID-19 Response Team, has two goals that are simple and focused:
- Provide a safe campus environment for all students, faculty, and staff
- Safely re-open campus for on-campus learning for the Fall 2020 semester
Supporting these goals are seven guiding principles:
- The health and safety of the Thomas College community is our top priority
- We will follow all local, state, and federal guidelines and be CDC compliant to minimize risk of exposure wherever possible
- We will continue to partner with community hospitals for guidance, support, and resources
- We will provide support for students, faculty, and staff during transition, regardless of learning modality
- We are committed to remain flexible with changing information and circumstances
- We will continue to communicate regularly with the Thomas College community to keep them informed
- We will maintain our strong Thomas College community spirit and connection
The Plan is comprised of the following primary components:
- Faculty and Staff: We are safely phasing staff back to campus over the summer, a process that began in early June
- Academic: We are changing how and where we instruct, reducing class size and changing delivery models to provide a mix of online, face-to-face, and hybrid instruction that delivers the highest academic quality possible. Thomas College is also the recipient of the Davis Education Foundation grant to provide additional faculty development and training for online and hybrid-model classes
- Preventative Safety: We are increasing the frequency of cleaning in high touch areas and bathrooms and have added more hand sanitizers stations around campus. We are actively exploring access to self-administered testing. Masks, social distancing, traffic flow management, plexiglass barriers, and campus education are also in place. COVID-19 related signage around campus will communicate important rules and reminders as well as room occupancy limits and help keep our community as safe as possible
- Physical and Mental Health Services: We are expanding our health services including Telehealth options and providing additional counseling hours
- Residence Life: We are reducing overall housing capacity and reserving spaces for quarantine use should the need arise
- Dining Services:
We are implementing enhanced safety precautions around food preparation and consumption such as no self-serve. We are increasing dining space by using the Summit Room to provide adequate social distance seating
- Facility Rentals: We will continue to prohibit use of campus facilities by outside groups through Fall 2020 semester
Additional strategies related to density reduction, screening/testing, and contact tracing are being reviewed, updated, and implemented as required by Maine CDC. In the coming weeks, we will be producing additional instructional materials like videos and graphics to assist all members of the community in transitioning back to campus.
While we cannot eliminate all risk, we are committed to a risk reduction approach that always prioritizes the health and safety of our Thomas College community. But we will need everyone’s cooperation and commitment to bring our community back together this fall in the safest way possible to give us the very best chance of staying together.
The Thomas College community is both strong and resilient. Whatever happens, we will get through this together.
I look forward to seeing you all on campus soon.
With deep respect and anticipation of a great year,
Laurie G. Lachance