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Plans for returning to campus this fall

May 7, 2020

Dear students,

As Vice President and Dean of Students, I want to offer you all the assurance I can by sharing with you Augustana College’s plans for returning to campus this fall.

We want to welcome you while continuing to care for the health and safety of our campus community. Our sights are set on providing a welcoming environment and a high-caliber learning experience within the realities of the global pandemic.

It is our plan, expectation and hope that Augustana will open for in-person learning for the fall semester with the appropriate and necessary health and safety measures in place.

To do so, we will rely on and follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rock Island Public Health Department. Employees across campus are working hard now, so Augustana will be well prepared to welcome you to campus under multiple scenarios.

Among the ways and reasons we we will be ready to welcome you to campus in the fall:

Health Clinic. Augustana will partner with an award-winning hospital to operate a health clinic on our campus. Students will not be charged an extra health clinic fee next year, because of the importance of keeping everyone at Augustana healthy. Details about the clinic are coming together and will be shared in the coming weeks.

Our campus setting. Our park-like location in Rock Island is an advantage. The Augustana campus is a largely self-contained 114-acre community, with comprehensive services and room to safely experience college life while maintaining physical distance.

Small class sizes. Augustana’s smaller class sizes — with a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1 — make it easier to accomplish social distancing. The average class size at Augustana is 18 students.

Sanitized spaces. Our facilities team will increase cleaning efforts. They frequently will sanitize high-touch areas, including railings and doors. Staff in Dining Services will continue to be diligent in their cleaning protocols as safety and sanitation continue to be paramount. Hand sanitizer and washing stations will be regularly checked and refilled, and we continue to invest in our inventory of hygiene supplies.

In all public areas, people on campus will be required to wear masks. We are exploring which previously in-person transactions can move to electronic forms. We have turned off water fountains, with exception of those designed to fill bottles. And we will adopt a "gym mentality," meaning people will wipe down the area where they have been sitting and working before they leave, so it is clean for the next person.

Academic program preparedness. Faculty members are working closely with Provost Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow and other leaders in the Office of Academic Affairs to plan for maximum flexibility. They will be prepared for possible disruptions and many scenarios. And they are making special plans for any students who are particularly vulnerable and require special accommodation for remote learning.

Pandemic contingency protocols. I am leading the Augustana Strong Task Force currently focusing on three key areas: (1) Health and Safety, (2) Return with Gusto, and (3) Residential Life. These teams will establish clear policies and protocols based on the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the Illinois Department of Health and local officials.

The college will have clear plans for handling situations when someone has had possible exposure. We have developed contingencies to provide living spaces, meals and related services for self-isolation on campus, should it be necessary.

Online learning readiness. Augustana has continually been exploring online learning, especially in recent years during summer school sessions. Our faculty understand courses should be designed to capture the fundamental elements and high impact practices that are hallmarks of an Augie education, even when they are conducted in a virtual modality.

Adaptable residential facilities. We are working to expand both our capacity for and enforcement of physical distancing in residence halls through various measures.

Flexible dining services. Our Campus Dining Services team is making plans to provide flexibility in meal service in a manner that allows for social distancing.

Athletic program planning. In collaboration with the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin and other member schools, we are continuing to monitor NCAA communications and will rely on NCAA and CCIW guidance to deliver a rewarding student-athlete experience and resume activities as soon as possible, while adhering to full compliance of public-health directives. 

Emergency funding for the college. Vice President for External Relations W. Kent Barnds is leading an effort to raise $2 million to offset the college’s financial challenges created by COVID-19. Plus, the college received CARES Act funding last week and wants to ensure it uses the funds in the best possible way. Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education is being reviewed, along with information of the greatest area of student need. Augustana will finalize distribution plans this month.

Mental health resources. Augustana has added virtual mental health resources in recent  weeks. TAO Connect provides an array of different mental health resources and education. After adding the option of remote individual sessions during this spring semester, Student Counseling Services will be able to continue providing that service through telebehavioral health services in the future if needed.

Summer classes at Augie. Summer can be a good time to make progress with completing general education requirements or courses required for your major. The majority of summer courses are being offered in an online format and space is still available in several courses.

Because this is an evolving situation, our tentative plans will get more clear in the weeks and months ahead. Please anticipate another message, with similar updates, from me in early June. It is my intention to provide additional in-depth updates throughout the summer.

While these are highlights of the work taking place on campus, I hope these examples clearly demonstrate how much faculty and other employees want to welcome you to campus while caring for your safety.

Take care, Vikings,

Wes Brooks
Vice President and Dean of Students