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Returning to Campus Conversation, Aug. 13, 2020

Following is a transcript from the Returning to Campus Conversation virtual session for families, Aug. 13, 2020. (Some sections have been edited for length.)

Video recording

My name is Kent Barnds, and I'm the executive vice president for external relations. I'd like to welcome you this evening to this conversation about a safe return to Augustana College.

Tonight, I am joined by Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow, provost and dean of the college. She'll talk a little bit about our preparations for the academic experience. We're also joined by Dr. Wes Brooks, our dean of students, who has been preparing and leading our Augustana Strong Task Force, which has been looking at every single element of a successful return to campus. Also, Chris Beyer, our director of Residential Life. We saw many of the questions that you submitted in advance were about residential life, and Chris will talk a little bit about our preparations there. 

We're also joined by our chief financial officer, Kirk Anderson, who, incidentally, is also a parent of a current Augustana student, so he is likely interested in this conversation for a whole range of reasons. 

And then also, in monitoring the more than 90 questions that were submitted in advance, we noticed that there were a number of questions about food services and dining. So we're also joined by Fred Kurt, our director of dining services, who will answer any questions you might have about dining. Also, we have Dave Wrath, who is our associate athletic director, for any questions that might revolve around the student-athlete experience at Augustana. 

Dr. Brooks, I'm going to turn things over to you. 

Thank you and good evening, everyone, really excited to have the opportunity to share some information from the Augustana Strong Task Force. It's a 21-member task force comprised of administrators, faculty, staff and students that has been meeting since April to enable Augustana to be ready and prepared to resume face-to-face classes and an in-person experience later this month. 

I'm going to address nine different facets of that planning and preparation. We'll start with physical distancing. Like many of you have heard in all of your walks of life, physical distancing also is an important part of the plan for resuming in-person classes here at Augustana College. We are asking all members of the campus community at all times to practice physical distancing, meaning that you are not within 6 feet of contact with other people. 

We have worked very hard to arrange classroom spaces to address physical distancing. Dr. Hilton-Morrow will speak to that. We've done the same thing in public spaces, computer labs, everywhere around campus. So physical distancing by our campus community members will be expected. 

In addition, wearing face masks, using face coverings, is expected. That will be expected at all times throughout the campus community, with the exception of students in their own residence hall rooms and also outside, only if they are able to remain beyond 6 feet apart from other people. But when in all campus buildings, including the classroom in the dining facility, when they're not eating, so on and so forth, we will expect all members of the campus community—faculty, staff and students—to wear face masks.

Something that we're really excited about, when all of our students return here in the next couple of weeks, are welcome kits that we are providing at no additional cost to all of our students. These welcome kits will be available in your residence hall locations. For students who are commuting to campus, they will be able to pick these up at the Office of Student Life and Leadership throughout the course of the first week. 

The welcome kits will include three face masks and a face mask hook that you use on the back of your head just to have a more comfortable mask-wearing experience, knowing that we will wear masks throughout the duration of the day. There will also be a water bottle, face shield and and a thermometer.

In addition, there will be a variety of educational pieces in the welcome kit that we really want to emphasize because we believe that the foundation for a COVID-ready return to campus is all about education and communication. So there will be educational pieces in that welcome kit as well. 

Please, please, please, students and families, remember that welcome kit. It will be available to you. And we really want to make sure that all of our students receive one upon arrival to campus. 

We're also going to expect students to complete a daily health screening, which will be a self-attestation that you do not have a temperature—which is where that welcome kit thermometer comes into play. In order to do the health screening, the daily health screening, we will be providing an app that students will be able to access on their smartphones.

In addition, there will also be a web-based option where students can complete that health screening through the web. But the majority of our students do use smartphones and will be able to have an app called Campus Clear that they can access each day—preferably right away in the morning when they wake up, to indicate that they do not have symptoms of COVID-19, specifically a temperature. 

When they complete that app process, they will receive what's called a FastPass on their smartphone or their smart device. That FastPass can then be shared as you walk into the library or into the PepsiCo Recreation Center, indicating, as you hold it up, that you've received a FastPass, which means you've checked all the appropriate boxes on the health screening to be ready to participate in the experiences for the day. So that CampusClear app is something that will be important for all of our students to download. And again, that information will be included in the welcome kit upon our students' arrival. 

A few other things to talk include our testing protocol. We will be doing COVID-19 testing on campus. Some of you may have heard about the deep nasal swabs or even the nasal swabs that some people are doing for testing. 

This is going to be a volunteer testing program. In order for us to receive volunteers, we did not believe that a deep nasal swab, which is such an invasive procedure, was the appropriate methodology for our testing. We're going to be using saliva-based testing. So first and foremost, knowing that it's a non-invasive saliva test, we really want to encourage as many students as possible to volunteer to participate. 

You all should have received the report called the Informational Guide and Policy Handbook via Augustana email earlier this week. It's also available on our website. There is a form in that material that allows you to register yourself to be a volunteer tester. 

The plan with testing is that those tests will be administered on campus in the PepsiCo Recreation Center on a weekly basis. We will be testing anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of our population, including employees and students, on a weekly basis. We are partnering with a local health center called Genesis Health and also a local IU, a local testing agency where we will get our testing processed in as little as 48 hours. So we will have quick results for these tests. 

And certainly we believe, in addition to face masks, physical distancing, self-screenings, and the testing, we're putting ourselves in position to be as prepared as possible to coexist with COVID-19 this fall.

In addition to testing, our Communication and Marketing Department has done a fantastic job of placing signage around campus. If you've been to your local grocery store or your local shopping center during the pandemic, you will have noticed a variety of signs and stickers on the floor and ground. Augustana College will look very similar to those places in terms of signage informing traffic flow and traffic control so community members know where to stand in lines in high-traffic areas and encouraging them to stay to the right at all times in hallways, similar to as if we're driving on a street. So traffic control in buildings and on campus will be very important.

We'll also be encouraging students not to congregate in hallways and things of that nature. There certainly will be plenty of social areas on campus like we always have had, whether that be in the Brew or the dining halls. But physical distancing will be expected in all of those situations. Traffic flow will be something that we will need to pay attention to and adapt to as we get a better understanding of what that looks like at the beginning of the academic year. 

In addition, just a couple of other things. We will be having all of our campus community members complete covid-19 training and the student training is nearing completion. It is very much tailored to the Augustan experience. So there's no question that when a student takes the training, which we envision rolling out early next week, you will see not only general information that you've probably heard through the news or in your own readings, but then things specific to Augustana College. So please be aware of that training that you'll be notified about in your student email. 

And a part of that training will be what we're calling the Augie Allies Pledge. And not only students, but all members of the campus community will be signing a pledge indicating our own accountability and personal ownership of living out the expectations that we have here at Augustana for us to be able to coexist with COVID face-to-face here on Augustana's campus. So that Augie Allies pledge will indicate that you will social distance, you will wear face masks, you will do the daily health screenings, you will participate in the testing if you volunteered things of that nature. So please be aware that that student training and again, campuswide training will be rolling out soon and that we would expect that to be completed prior to students arriving to campus. 

And then lastly, I'd like to just mention that Augustana will be temporarily smoke-free during the pandemic because of a variety of issues. If you can imagine, not only when people are smoking, they are not masked. Also typically near smoking receptacles outside there's congregating. That congregating, plus no mask, can create some concern about community spread. And then lastly, as we think about HVAC and air circulation, we really want to make sure that we have great air flow in our buildings. So when the weather's nice, we will have windows open. And in order to do that, we want to make sure that that smoke is not drifting across campus into our campus classrooms and residence halls and things of that nature.  

I will turn it over to Chris Beyer our director of Residential Life.

Thanks, Dr. Brooks. So I was looking over the questions that came in, there are quite a few questions about move-in, so I'd like to start there and just walk you through what the move-in experience is going to look like for those who are returning students or returning families.

We're going to be doing it just a little bit differently this year. One of the things we're trying to achieve is not having more than 15 people arriving at any one unloading zone at any given time. So there's a lot of appointments for early arrival groups. Students should have been given a block of time by their coach or supervisor or whoever it is that coordinated their early arrival to let them know what time would be appropriate for them to come to campus.

And just depending on the day, some days we broke it up by group. Some days we broke it out alphabetically. It was just depending on how many people were showing up that day to each individual building what groups they were. So if you or your student is in any of our early arrival groups, I would ask that you just follow the instructions that you got from your your program coordinator, if that's your coach, your supervisor, the Office of Student Life and Leadership, whoever it is that that's in charge of that group, they'll tell you exactly when it's appropriate to arrive. 

And we are really asking that everybody stick to that, because if you start shuffling around too much, we might actually end up with the crowd and we really want to avoid that. 

We are also asking that students limit themselves to two helpers when they are moving and just do them out there. There's 15 students two helpers and we are at 45 already and in the state of Illinois guidelines is to keep crowds under 50. Now, I don't think all 15 will pull up at the same moment. And we'll suddenly have a crowd. It will kind of trickle in during that time block. But when we have our staff there, we've got the students, the two helpers. That's kind of our ceiling in terms of doing this safely and getting everybody in. 

We will have dollies available this time. So they will be checked out one at a time. We're going to sanitize them in between uses. If you have your own, feel free to bring your own for those incoming students. First, your students who are moving in on the 26th and 27th. On those days, we will have a team of volunteers on site at each of the unloading areas. We'll have a couple of students in each area with a laundry cart basically. And that way you can unload directly from your vehicle into the laundry cart. They're going to get that cart as close to the room as they can and then you're going to have to unload it. 

So we're telling our student volunteers not to touch anybody's belongings this year. They'll really just be pushing the laundry cart back and forth. They'll be wearing masks. We will have staff and administrators who are present in the unloading presence in the check-in areas to get keys issued and welcome, everybody. We do like to try to go very quickly. So I want to get the stuff out of the car the car. Get it in the room, go past the car, make room for the next person, but do please plan to keep yourself to two helpers. 

I think at this point, everybody knows there was an option to switch to remote learning for the fall and for J-term. And we've been getting questions about what happens if my roommate is doing remote learning. We are still moving some students around. It gets harder every day because we already have students living in the halls. Actually, our summer students have started to move into their fall assignments. International students will be arriving early.

So when we do these late assignments, we don't ask people to physically move if we need to modify a housing assignment. It's only going to happen before they arrive on campus. And we've already locked in all the beds. So that also constrains us in terms of being able to change housing assignments around. But there might be a little bit of movement. If a person opts for distance learning, they are forfeiting their housing assignment for the fall for J-term. And we can't promise that they'll get that same bed space back in the spring if it's still available. And they want to they can request that and we'll honor it, but we can't promise that that that space will sit empty for long.

We did do a bit of a de-densification, which means a lot of our smaller double-occupancy rooms only have one person. The numbers here are larger. Double-occupancy rooms will still have two. We did poll our students and we found that many of them were still wanting to have a roommate. And I think we were able to honor all of the requests of those who felt better without a roommate. They won't have a roommate. Those who requested have a roommate will have a roommate.

We will expect masks to be on in the buildings other than in private rooms, and obviously when people are using the bathroom to brush their teeth or to take a shower, you'll need to take your mask off there. But otherwise, we will expect that students will be wearing masks. We do have directional signage in the hallway to maintain distance. 

There have been questions about how are we building community, how are we combating loneliness? And that's something we're spending a lot of time talking with our community advisers about. They will be here exploring new and creative ways to reach the student. 

We have a new text messaging platform just because it seems like students engage via text message so much more readily than some other forms of communication. So we're going to try that. We're going to make a real effort to have regular ongoing check-ins with everybody because we don't want somebody languishing in their bedroom and just going to class and then coming back to the room. So we will stay in contact with them and make sure that people are engaging in whatever ways are possible. 

There's been a lot of creative thinking about ways to stay connected that's socially distant  appropriate outdoors in small groups, that sort of thing. So we're definitely going to be encouraging that. 

A lot of questions about drinking fountains. Those have been shut down because it they can't be kept sanitary. But those that have the bottle-filling stations are still available. So we'll make sure every student has a water bottle. They'll quickly figure out where those filling stations are so they can keep their water bottles filled. 

And then I also saw quite a few questions about enforcement of policies. Actually, that's probably the most popular question I'm getting is, How are you going to enforce this mask policy? We've been talking with our student workers and really with anybody who will give me the time of day. 

We're going to start by asking people nicely to wear the mask. We want to kind set this tone in this expectation and the community that it's OK to ask. And if somebody asks, you put the mask on and we're going to assume that it was just an honest mistake. Now, if we have students who are combative about it there, we will document that we have a sanctioning structure to address it, starting with warnings, and if there's repeat offenses, there will be fines. If there are multiple repeat offenses, it could result in a student being dismissed from living on campus, because if they reach the point where they're basically creating an unsafe environment for everybody else, we're all better off if they're engaging in distance learning and not physically on campus. 

From the time I've spent with students this summer, I really don't think it's going to be a big problem there. I think they're eager to be here. They're ready to follow the rules. They are wearing masks or some are students are our student leaders have been really supportive of this. And if you've seen that PSA campaign, they're all kind of eager to get out there and put their mask on and be good role models for each other. 

So I really don't expect that's going to be a major problem. I think we're seeing this at other college campuses, too. They are doing it. They're wearing their masks and they're being responsible community members.

And I think now over to Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow. 

I'm responsible for the academic program here at Augustana. I'm also a full professor and I've taught here at my alma mater for approximately 20 years. So let me just say that our faculty are here at Augustana because we view it as our calling in life to work with young people at such an incredible time. 

And so while we know we have a lot of our returning students who are anxious to get back on campus or back in our classrooms even remotely, as well as new students who will be joining us and are looking forward to this next step, let me just say the faculty are very, very anxious to have you back. Campus is just not the same without you. And we're looking forward to having the majority of our students back here on campus and, yes, in our classrooms.

So I want to talk a little bit about what that might look like. First of all, know that, as you can imagine, has been a very busy summer around here. You've heard a lot of the plans that are happening in Residential Life, in the Dean of Students office. But faculty have been just as busy planning themselves. 

Normally, faculty would spend their summers devoted to research, writing, tweaking their courses. Well, our faculty learned a lot in the short time that they were online this spring with not much advance notice for that. And so they've been spending the summer really thinking about how to prepare to provide an education within a framework that provides maximum flexibility this fall, because we know that that's what we're going to need. 

We will have students in our classes. We will have some students joining us remotely via distance, likely synchronously via video during those class times. 

We also know that we will be in a situation where some students may need to quarantine, some of them perfectly healthy while doing so. And so we want to make sure that they can continue to take part in their courses even while quarantining. And if we were to have students who were sick, whether from COVID or frankly, all of the other things that you get sick from in college, we want to make sure we're able to accommodate those students as well. 

So our faculty have been thinking a lot about flexibility and how we can achieve that in the classes. And faculty have been doing some online training themselves in preparation for it. As part of that, we've been investing in technology for all of our classrooms to get them set up and prepared. We have been doing upgrades to Moodle so that it runs more smoothly and has better functionality than it has because we know that we need to rely on that more. 

And speaking of technology, I just want to draw your attention, students, that you will be getting a version of this pretty shortly. I think they're being mailed out in the next day or so will look like a post card. So it's going to be a little bit smaller. But what that will be doing is urging you to complete a needs assessment around technology. If you haven't done that already, it was emailed to you. But we want to make sure every one of our students does that. 

Yes, we have students who are learning remotely. And so we tried to capture some of that information at the time. You expressed an interest in that. But we need to know what sort of technology all of our students have so that if you are on campus and you end up in a situation where you might need to quarantine for a short period of time, that we know if you have what you need and we can work with you to get it. So I just wanted to draw your attention to that. 

I want to talk a little bit about what our classes are going to be like in the fall. So we have been working with faculty who are in CDC high-risk areas in the way that we've worked to accommodate students in those categories. We also want to be able to accommodate our faculty. I'll say the vast majority of our faculty just are anxious to be back in the classroom in some way. But for those who did need accommodation, we are allowing them to move their courses online. 

And so a number of questions have come up about how do I know if my courses are fully online? Those will be designated in Arches. If you look at this section number, when you go in and you check your course schedule or look at other courses out there with an O and L in the section number. So if you see that, that means it's being taught by a faculty member who will be teaching remotely. If you're here on campus, you're able to enroll in those courses. If you're a distance learner, you're able to enroll in those courses. 

Now, only about 15 percent of our 640 courses are in that category. Interestingly enough, we have a couple apparently unlucky students with the roll of the dice (who) just ended up in more of those than we would ever expect to see. And so I wanted to let you that if you are a first-year student who falls into that situation, don't worry, we are keeping an eye on it and our plan is to work behind the scenes very feverishly here in the next few days and get your schedule moved around for you. 

Our goal would be that first-year students wouldn't have more than one online course or fully online courses. So don't panic if you're in that category. We're working to fix it and we'll communicate with you what we plan your new schedule to be. And also, you'll have some time to adjust when you would get here on campus. 

For our sophomores through seniors, we would be working towards the goal of no more than two courses fully online. We don't anticipate there would be many students that would fall into that category. But just as you move up there in the classes, you start needing certain classes for your major or for the different requirements that might lock you into some courses, but we're still going to do everything we can. 

So early next week we will be opening up open registration. And so at that time, you will see be able to see what courses are online and which ones are on person in person. And if you decide to make some adjustments based on whether you'll be here on campus, or from a distance or you'll have an opportunity to do it at that time. I just want to reiterate first-year students, please don't try and make any of those adjustments. We'll take care of those and we'll be in communication with you about those. 

So in terms of our in-person courses, as you might imagine, we are doing a lot to set up all of our classrooms to accommodate at least six-foot physical distancing. We've been through every one of the classrooms. We have diagrams of how they need to be set up. Facilities have been doing an incredible job. Going in we will have signs up so students know where to sit to make sure that we're maintaining all of that. 

Because of that physical distancing, there are courses that we simply can't fit all of the students in the course at the same time. So in those cases, faculty will handle it differently depending on what best suits the goals and outcomes of their course. It may be that they run an A-B schedule with half the students in person during one time period and then bring in the other half. It might be that they are rotating three students over a period of two weeks that they have take turns drawing remotely. It may be that they're doing out-of-class assignments/labs during that time that they're not in class. 

So we will be asking our faculty as we approach the start of the term to make sure that they're communicating with the students exactly what that's going to look like so students know in advance of going into those classes if there is a rotation schedule, what that might look like.

We're also, though, doing our best to maximize all of our larger spaces on campus. And so for students who are returning, you might find yourself in spaces having classes you never have before. You might find yourself in Gerber Center having a class or in Wilson Center, so we are doing our best to make sure we're using those larger spaces. 

If you have questions about your schedules, sophomores through seniors, as you look at those different scenarios, don't be afraid to reach out to your faculty advisor and ask those questions. I was just on a Google meeting with about 130 of them today, and I told them I would be telling you to reach out again for those first-year students, give us a chance to work it out. But at any time, you need to go ahead and reach out to the first-year advising office. 

Just a reminder, we've adjusted our schedule, our academic schedule, in a way that will allow students to not return to campus after Thanksgiving if they would choose not to do so. Finals will be able to be completed as at a distance. I just want to clarify, we're thinking of that through the end of the semester. 

We've gotten the occasional question from students that, Does this mean the whole rest of the academic year? No, we have made that adjustment so that we can give ourselves enough wiggle room, particularly to get us through this semester, so that you wouldn't necessarily be coming back to campus between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I did want to clarify that. 

Also, just a reminder that all of our support services will still be here. They'll be fully operational. So if you think about CORE, the career development work that goes on here, International Off Campus Programs Office is going to be available to work with students to plan opportunities here in the future. Our tutoring center, Reading/Writing Center, all of those services will be offered. 

Because we will be trying to limit that in-person contact in closed spaces, it might mean that you're meeting with those folks remotely. They'll be in on campus here. In some cases, it might mean that you're meeting outdoors for some of those meetings if you want to meet directly in person. And of course, all of all of those other support systems are in place from your faculty advisor to other more informal mentors that you might have in the office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, the Office of International Student Scholars Services. 

Even your supervisors, if you're a student worker here, all of those people will be here and continuing to support you, whether you are in person here or at a distance for students who are joining will be joining us remotely. 

I know that there's been questions about, Do I only sign up for online courses? How does that work? All of our courses are designed to be able to accommodate either in-person students or remote learners. 

So I just want to say that one more time, set your schedule based on what works for you, but then expect that you would be joining those synchronously for some of our international students who might be joining us at a distance. We know there are time zone issues in your faculty will be prepared to work with you on that. 

And finally, I just want to say I'm the mother of a first-year college student myself this year. And so for those parents who are watching, I know it was a tough into a senior year in high school and a lot of uncertainty as you send your students off to college or getting them started at college. I get it. I just want to promise you that our mission hasn't changed. Our learning outcomes haven't changed. We'll just be delivering your student's education in a little bit different way. And students, again, we're so anxious. We're going to have you back very soon. Kent, let me turn things over to you.

Kent Barnds: Before I facilitate the live Q&A, Kirk Anderson, our CFO, has a couple of questions that he's going to address. And then there's really great activity in the live in the questions that have been submitted. And I'm going to circle back to a variety of things related to Wes's comments and to Chris's comments and to Wendy's comments. But, Kirk, let me turn it over to you for a few moments.

Kirk Anderson: A question that comes up quite frequently as of late (is) scenario planning. If Augustana were to go to an online-only program, what's the policy with refunds? So what we recently did is we recently posted a summary of our of our refund policy. So if you have any questions related to that, whatever recommend you're doing is going to the Augustana website in the search field, type in "refunds." And what you will then see is you'll see a posting from July 23, which details the policies in relation to any type of refunds that we would create if once again we were to have an online-only situation. 

The reason that we don't have explicit formulas — there are many reasons. One has to do with the fact that refunds would be determined based on how long we would be away from school and second of all, what type of services we would no longer be able to provide based on any type of direction, whether it be from federal government or state government. 

The second piece that I have is some good news, and that good news is that for students coming to campus this year, they're going to see something new if you're a sophomore, junior or senior. But for new students, what we're going to have is we're going to have a health clinic on campus. That health clinic is going to be open 7 days a week. That's going to service all students and faculty members.  

That means that you have the flu. If you have other sprains, if you have small things, bronchitis, they will be able to see you this year... In addition to that, if your son or daughter does not have any type of illness outside of the hours of the health clinic, we are also going to be providing a Web service where students can access doctors 24/7 if they have any type of illness on an  off-hour. 

Lastly, another service that will also be provided with that, our counseling services. So once again, that will also be provided 24/7 for students, which I think is going to be very helpful as students come back to school. And once again, that is something new. And once again, as of this year, we will not have a fee associated with those. 

Now, one of the questions that we are getting is, What kind of fees are students responsible for? So if your student has a situation where they do have to have prescription drugs or see a specialist, or if that special testing, those types of fees would be transferred over to your insurance in order to take care of that. So with that said, Kent, I will send it back over to you. And I think we're ready for questions. 

Kent Barnds: ... Chris, I'd like to start with you. There are a number of questions about move-in and whether or not parents, when they move their student in, can run out to the grocery store or to Target and come back to the residence hall or it's move-in and sayonara. So can you respond to to what move-in might look like this year for a parent and how we're adapting that in order to protect our community to the best of our ability?

Chris Beyer: So that move-in window that you've been assigned or if they're coming on the move-in days for new students, that's the 26th. 27th for returning students. 28, 29,30. That window of time is the time that we want you to be in the unloading zone. 

So the time you can kind of pull up, unload, make things to the room, go park if you need to kind of come and go there after, that's OK. It's kind of the unloading zones that we're most we're going to be most careful with because that's where that's going to be congregating. 

So for movement, if you have to go to Target and buy a mattress cover, that's OK. No one's going to stop you at the door. And there's a lot of kind of honor system here. Like we're really not going to have the ability to kind of closely monitor and enforce this. I've heard parents talking about bringing siblings. Can we tag team tag teams? Fine. Just do your part to keep the six-foot social distancing, particularly in that unloading area, or if there's kind of major hallways in the building where you see people congregating, wait outside for a minute, let the crowd move on and then kind of go. 

It just sort of takes a little bit of common sense and responsibility. We're not going to be crazy with, like, enforcing rules and trying to embarrass people or call you out. We know you've got to get your students moved in. We want you to be able to do that as quickly and pleasantly. 

I mean, normally, moving day is my favorite day of the year. And we have a ton of volunteers show up and it's like a party and there's music and there's balloons. And we roll out the red carpet and we're all wearing matching T-shirts and we just make a big event event. And it's kind of like breaking my heart that we can't do that for you this year. 

So we're going to do a really scaled-back version of it. We still want it to be a positive experience. Normally, I tell parents of new students that my goal is that you don't carry any boxes, that we carry all the boxes for you. And I regret that. I can't say that this year. But we're going to do our best with the dollies and the volunteers. 

But we need you to kind of meet us halfway and not bring too many people, not linger, get in, unpack, unload, do what you need to do, avoid all the squealing and hugging that returning students do. We don't want them to do it this year. They can kind of do virtual high-five, but just just kind of work with us to create that atmosphere where we're not congregating and creating crowds or particularly in the building.

Kent Barnds: Wes, I'm wondering if you could respond to the question about why we selected the saliva testing, our feelings about competence there and why the surveillance testing is the pathway that we chose. And maybe you could also speak to a question about student living in an area where testing is limited to those individuals who are exhibiting symptoms. 

So I think this is a question in response to our recommendation that students voluntarily be tested before arriving to campus.So could you hit both of those things Wes, if you wouldn't mind?

Wes Brooks: A short answer. So the first one being the saliva-based test versus the nasal pharyngeal, deep nasal swab test. And our surveillance testing approach. So I'll take that. 

First, in terms of surveillance testing, what we believe is that surveillance testing allows us to have more data and be more scientific. In our response to COVID-19, if you can imagine, the the COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time. And if you're familiar at all with viral loads and the incubation period for COVID-19, it's it's a 2-14 day incubation. And typically the viral load during that incubation period is at its highest on Day 6, is my understanding. 

If you were to be tested when your viral load is very low, then you may receive a negative test result. If you were tested when when the viral load is at its peak, that test that may have been negative days prior would be positive in that peak moment. In addition, you may be tested and during that 48-hour timeline between test and results, you could come in contact with someone, whether it be on or off campus, and contract COVID-19 after that test has been has been administered. And your test result would still come back negative, even though over the course of the next two weeks you would still be in that new incubation period. 

So the test itself is really a snapshot in time. So to do surveillance testing, we believe that that best informs the college of all the other measures that we're taking to ensure that we are able to coexist with COVID again, physical distancing, mask wearing temperature checks, the daily health screenings, things of that nature. 

And as we get those results back from the surveillance testing, that that informs us that either we may have a community spread on campus. We certainly hope that's never the case. But if we were to learn specific things around around cohorts or different things that that are testing positive, why is that? Was there was there disregard for masking, disregard for physical distancing so that surveillance testing very strategically informs us more about all of the other measures that we're taking than if we simply had that one snapshot in time where we tested everyone in terms of the saliva-based test. 

And certainly, as all things are with COVID, the data, the research, the opinion pieces, everything is very fluid and continues to come at all of us very rapidly. But as we have talked to numerous health professionals, various testing organizations, we have been assured that in terms of the non-invasive nature of the saliva-based test, in addition to very comparable results in terms of statistical significance and the reliability of testing, that the saliva-based test, especially in the surveillance nature, is the best approach for us to use here at Augustana College. 

So certainly the nasal pharyngeal is very much a strong and positive test. But the benefits of the saliva test really meet the needs of Augustana College. And we believe that we can can administer those very, very effectively here on campus through our partner Genesis Health. 

The other question was related to voluntary testing before arrival on campus. That's limited to student individuals exhibiting symptoms. Absolutely. So with volunteer testing prior to arrival, that is very much a recommendation. Certainly, again, that's a snapshot in time. But that snapshot in time is prior to arriving to campus. Right. So that could put not only the family of the student at ease, but helps the college understand coming into the campus whether or not you've had a positive test. It's a recommendation, not a requirement. 

Certainly, if you are currently living in what's being considered a hot spot or a hot city or a hot county. Right now, then we would really encourage testing prior to arrival to to some some of the other conversations that have occurred this evening, there will be testing available in the Quad Cities where they're certainly going to be testing available on campus, both through our health clinic, through our partner Genesis and other offsite locations in the Quad Cities that we could certainly direct students to upon arrival. But it's not a requirement to be tested. 

We would ask that that you monitor your county information in relationship to the number of positive cases in that county. And if they are deemed to be high, then we really would ask that you do what you can to secure a test prior to coming to campus, but that is not required. But again, certainly we will have the availability of testing when students arrive to campus, whether that be through our health clinic or through our partner at offsite locations. And certainly, if you're interested in being tested, we would encourage again for you to sign up on that volunteer form of shared that link a couple of times in the chat and would welcome you to do that. And then you may be selected through that random sampling to be tested when you come to campus 

Kent Barnds: One more question related to testing, do we have a sense of the turnaround on our surveillance testing? How quickly will receive those results? 

Wes Brooks: We do. We do. So the test itself will will literally take a matter of minutes and that will all be preplanned and preassigned. So students, faculty and staff will know a day or two in advance that they've been selected to be in this week's testing cycle. Again, that's through the volunteer platform. 

And then from there one once those tests have been administered (again on campus at PepsiCo, students will not have to travel anywhere to take the weekly test) then we expect a 48-hour turnaround on results. Genesis Health has assured us that that they will do everything they can to return those results to us in 48 hours. 

Certainly we recognize that there are some things beyond our control, whether it be a large outbreak somewhere else that is working with that particular testing agency. So that could push things back. But we have a great working relationship with our partner, Genesis, and they've told us in normal circumstances 48 hours.

Kent Barnds: I have noted that there have been a couple of comments about the link within the PDF about the volunteer testing form, not not working or not being accessible. We promised to try to address that as quickly as possible and appreciate those of you who are already willing and ready to volunteer for bringing that to our attention. Wendy, could you once again just make sure that people understand exactly how students will find out if a course is being offered exclusively online? 

Wendy Hilton-Morrow: Our students who are returning, they're quite used to looking at their class schedules and they would know that all of their courses have a course number along with the section number. Those are typically multi section courses. 

So, for instance, our First-Year Inquiry course, we have about 40 sections of that out there. And so you're your course number might look like FYI101-37. That would mean that it's a course that will primarily be meeting in person.

If it is an online-only course, when you look at that it would say FYI-ONL and then the section number. So that's the way that our returning students can easily get back and look at their courses. 

Also for our new students, as you are taking a look at what courses you've been scheduled into, we know some are still continuing to be go through that registration process that would alert you to it. But again, for our particularly our first-year, students will be working on the back end if we are seeing that ONL designation show up on more than one of your courses to see if we can make some changes on the back end before you arrive and have a new schedule for you that really minimizes those courses for our returning students. 

We may have some students who are distance learners who would like to get into more of those ONL courses. And you would be able to do that when we open registration back up for you early next week. 

For those who have more ONL courses than they had intended, we will also be looking at those ourselves, trying to limit those to two or fewer. But you would also, during open registration, have the opportunity to shift around some of your courses for some of our multi section courses. There may be some courses that are online and some in person. So there would be a bit of flexibility there. But again, don't be afraid to reach out to your advisor if you have questions about that.

Kent Barnds: Excellent, thanks, Wendy, and I'm going to turn to you in just a moment, Fred, but I want to prep Wes and Chris to think a little bit about the various questions that have come in, about the welcome week experience and also parents and parents involvement. And you might think a little bit about our convocation that we are planning. That will be a family convocation offered in a virtual broadcast. But also, what events will parents be involved in and what might well come? Fred, if you wouldn't mind. Just a high level overview of how we're approaching dining this this semester in service to our students, but also being as as protective of our students as possible.

Fred Kurt: Absolutely. I'm going to start off with Welcome Weekend and meal plans, because there was a lot of questions in regards to that meal plan started on Sunday, August 30. And obviously with the students moving back for a Welcome Week starting on Wednesday and Thursday, at that point in time for all incoming freshmen and transfers, meals will be provided and also for any incoming athletes and different departments that have students arriving. 

Early departments will be taking care of those individual students for their meals with Welcome Week. There will be some boxed lunches and stuff that will be eaten outside of the Dining Center during that the pre-opening week. But our Dining Center will be open as soon as they arrive on Wednesday because there's a few students that's only going to be open from 10:30 to 1 p.m. and then 5-7 p.m. But the rest of the weekend through the weekend will be open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

Now, this fall, starting up, there's been a lot of changes in Dining Services. And I guess the key thing would be, is that the buffets are being eliminated. So there will be a lot less touching of utensils and so forth by our customers. All the meals will be served in the different stations by dining staff. We will be limiting capacity to 50 percent within the dining or dining center. 

And to assist us with that and monitoring that, we have taken basically about every other table offline, which provides us plenty of distance between tables. However, we have an occupancy counter that's going to help us keep track of where we're at in seating customers. So if you can imagine 1,200 students coming through during a meal period, it's kind of hard to manage and know where you're at with capacity levels, and this occupancy counter will assist us and assist the students because they can go right on the dining website and be able to see if we're at 100 percent capacity at that 50 percent marker and suggests that maybe they check back in with us in 20 minutes or it'll indicate to them if we're reasonably close to being full. 

And likewise, if we're not even close to being full that way, if they're leaving the residence hall where they're coming from class, they're not going to get up to the Dining Center and be disappointed that there's going to be a big, long line and everybody spaced out distant, which that line could end up being very long. 

Students, when they come in to dine, they will be wearing masks. The only time the masks will be taken off as while they're sitting down to eat and they can sit with their fellow friends and and so forth in groups of up to six at a table. We do have a lot of directional signs that marketing made up. They're very nice and we'll want people to be following those directions so that there's not a lot of cross paths as much as possible coming in and out into the different areas. 

And then there also be signs in regards to keep keeping the distance throughout the Dining Center. There's a lot of Plexiglas, especially at the cashier locations. Staff will be going through daily health screenings as well. So, you know, we'll be doing the temperature checks as they come in to work, both full-time staff and student staff. 

We'll have external contactless transaction strips for the student ID cards, so they won't be handing it back and forth to our staff members and also that'll work for credit cards. And also, if they're buying retail items of other locations, they can use the QR pay to pay for their items as well. So they won't be handling ID cards or credit cards. And we are going cashless in a couple of locations and that would be our Snack Bar location along with the Westerlin market. 

But other than that, I think that pretty much covers a lot of what we're doing overall, but I do know that our staff is very excited to get back into the groove of things and welcoming back students, because that's really what they do best, is serving our students on campus and they're very excited.

Kent Barnds: Thanks, Fred. That's a really helpful overview, I think we've got time for just two more responses to questions, but I do want to promise everyone who is who has answered or asked an open question that we will respond to those questions either via email or a phone call in the coming days to make sure that you get an answer to your question. But I'm wondering, Wendy, there were enough questions about that term and our current planning relative to jan-term.

If you wanted to take forty five, 60 seconds on on what our our posture is towards term right now and then perhaps you could conclude with with welcome week and when that schedule is most likely to be finalized, given the fact that that has been a fluid in the past few days. And then I'll I'll circle back and close things out. But when do you have a term.

Wendy Hilton-Morrow: So in terms of J-term, as many of you know, is an opportunity when a number of our students travel, whether domestically or internationally for programs. Those programs have been looked at on a case-by-case basis and faculty member have made plans. In some cases we have already canceled those and that has been communicated to students. In other cases, we're taking a wait-and-see approach and faculty are ready to pivot those courses as necessary.

We have some students who might, for instance, be traveling after the end of the academic year rather than doing their travel in term, but doing their academic component and J-term. So there's a really special opportunity for those study away programs. And we're really looking at those case-by-case, depending on where they're located and what what how confident we feel in the ability to offer those in terms of on campus courses. We will still abide by our same expectations that our students who are first year students would be enrolled in a jail term.

Of course, we will be assessing things between now and January, but certainly we know that we will have some distance learners continuing from this fall term in our J-term courses and we would accommodate them. And our plans at this time would certainly be that we would have that on-campus experience. And we would expect, just as last year, if we have students here as student athletes who might be working on campus for whatever reason, that they would be enrolled in those courses.

Kent Barnds: Thank you, Wendy. I hope that that clears up at least as much as we can at this point relative to J-term. Wes, I'd like to turn to you to to respond to a variety of questions relative to Welcome Week and what that experience might be like for our new students coming to Augustana for the first time, recognizing that you can't get into the full schedule, but that schedule will be coming out soon. So could you take just a couple of moments on that question?

Wes Brooks: So Welcome Week is very much being planned and has been planned for the last four months, certainly numerous iterations as more guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Center for Disease Control and the Illinois Board of Higher Education continues to come forward. So the schedule is very nearly finalized again with the idea that that if things come up in the next three weeks in relationship to expert guidance that we need to adhere to, that schedule could theoretically change yet again.

But the idea behind the schedule is that we are are trying to offer as much of a normal Welcome Week experience as we as we can in it in accordance to health and safety messures. So, for example, instead of having one event on on the first evening of Welcome, students should anticipate numerous smaller events that they will either select or be assigned to to maintain physical distancing and the group size limitations that as of right now are 50 or less.

So they're certainly going to be a variety of social opportunities during Welcome Week. There's going to be fantastic collaboration and mentoring from returning students, just like there always is. Of course, it will still include masking and physical distancing and things of that nature. But but students should absolutely anticipate a robust Welcome Week experience that they will get to know numerous dozens, if not hundreds of their fellow classmates and certainly do so through a variety of things. The last I knew and again, this is very fluid.

I think typically we have around 50 activities on the schedule. And as of the last time I had learned more about Welcome Week specifically, we were under the impression that we were going to be able to deliver, albeit maybe somewhat differently. 45 of those 50 programs again. So certainly a lot of what we've done in the past we will continue to do. And it's all about developing relationships, engaging students or adding them to the. Campus community getting them as comfortable as possible before August 30, first the first day of classes so they can hit the ground running and really thrive.

So students should anticipate a high-energy, high-paced experience. It will just still include all of those limitations in order to do all we can to keep them as safe as possible during this pandemic.

I've seen a few questions there and I apologize. We just can't can't respond to all of them tonight. But as Kent has said, we'll get back to everyone. But when the schedule is released, which I would assume will be the next week, certainly at the latest, there will be clear articulation of what parents should anticipate being involved in.

And then also kind of a clear delineation of when we we anticipate parents returning home and then students engaging in Welcome Week with their cohort of students. There will be very clear articulation in the schedule that that outlines that for parents and then certainly for students. But we really believe we're going to be able to deliver a great experience and really hope that students will engage as much as possible in that, because a big part of Augustana and the beauty of this community is relationships that we want to have students dive into those as quickly as possible, which will happen right away.

I'll leave you tonight with the thought that we all have, that we can only do this together by encouraging everyone to adhere to the guidelines that have been proposed to look out for one another, look out for themselves and protect this community so that we can engage in the type of learning that everybody wants at Augustana College.