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Aquinas announces plans for return to campus for fall semester

Posted at 8:34 AM, Jun 08, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In the “Saints Together: A Plan for Fall 2020 [],” launched today (June 5), Aquinas College [] provides a roadmap for students, faculty and staff to return to campus. The College will welcome students back to campus in August and will begin in-class instruction on Aug. 19, one week earlier than originally scheduled.

Classes will continue through Nov. 21, which will be the last day of face-to-face instruction. The traditional Fall Break in October will be shifted to the week of Thanksgiving. The combined Fall Break and Thanksgiving Break week will be held Nov. 23-27. Following the break, students will not return to campus and will engage in one week of distance learning from Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

“Aquinas College’s Dominican identity compels us to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our campus community,” President Kevin G. Quinn [] said. “We want to have our community of Saints back on campus, but that is a complex process that we must do as safely and responsibly as possible.”

The AQ Opens Task Force [] and other members of the campus community have been working since early May to develop a plan informed by guidance from the Kent County Health Department and other public health, higher education and government experts.

The College launched a new website, Saints Together: A Plan for Fall 2020, available at [], to share details about the plan.

It includes a variety of precautions, protocols and guidance for social distancing, proper use of face coverings, good hygiene and hand-washing practices, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures, quarantining and isolation, training, education, communication and a variety of other actions.

President Quinn expressed the need for everyone to have personal responsibility for committing to full participation in the plan.

“We are a community of caring, so we each have individual responsibility to others on our campus,” he said. “It will require the cooperation of all of us to ensure that we can return to and remain on campus this semester.”

Faculty and staff who need to conduct work on campus will gradually return to the workplace in a phased approach throughout the summer. Employees will be required to complete a series of training modules and conduct a daily symptom self-screen. The rest of the College’s employees will continue to telecommute.

Class offerings will closely reflect teaching delivery models traditionally offered with considerations made for health and social-distancing protocols.

“Our goal is to provide our students with as normal a College experience as possible as safely as possible, but this is a new world and there are things that will look and feel a little different this year,” President Quinn said. “Aquinas College’s promise is that we will continue to deliver on our core mission of a high-quality education and valuable learning experiences in line with our Catholic and Dominican heritage with the utmost care and concern for the students we serve.”

In the coming weeks, additional information will be added to the Saints Together website and communicated to the campus community through a variety of touchpoints.

The College will also continue to monitor the broader public health situation and refer to guidance or directives from public health and government officials in case the College needs to change course and engage in contingency plans.

“This past spring, our campus community quickly adapted to the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19,” President Quinn said. “We will remain nimble enough to respond while addressing the academic, social and emotional needs of our students, faculty and staff.”

Academic Calendar

As described above, the academic calendar has been adjusted. Further information about drop/add dates and more will be added soon.

Move-in and Orientation

By June 19, the College will outline the details of a move-in plan that will adhere to social distancing guidelines per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Kent County Health Department and state government officials. Move-in will most likely occur with a staggered approach up to a week-and-a-half prior to the start of classes.

Details about the new move-in process will be posted on the Saints Together [] website and the Residence Life [] website, and information will be sent to residential students via email.

Students who may need to move in early (e.g., resident assistants, diversity assistants and Bridge program students) should contact their program coordinator or Residence Life and watch for communication updates on the College’s web pages and email.

Information about international student move-in will be communicated soon. Plans will be subject to guidance from CDC, U.S. State Department and individual countries.

For new students and transfer students, New Student Orientation will begin on Aug. 16.

On-campus Housing and Dining Services

Aquinas College is committed to providing a safe and healthy on-campus housing and dining experience for our students. The College is outlining details for physical distancing in on-campus housing and dining locations, which will be communicated soon.

Details will be planned in accordance with guidance from the Kent County Health Department.

The College has fewer students living on campus than previous years, and this year the College has increased the number of single-occupancy rooms, which will assist in physical distancing in on-campus housing. Isolation and quarantine plans for on-campus residents who test positive for COVID-19 will be shared soon.

The College is also working with our dining vendor to outline protocols in line with CDC and state guidelines. This may include adjusted seating and traffic flow, new health and safety protocols for dining services employees, and more.

Athletics, Student Activities and Campus Events

More details about the plan to enable student-athletes to resume practice and competition in the fall will be announced soon on the AQ Saints [] website. Final plans for all sports will be subject to the decisions made by the NAIA and the WHAC, in line with directives from public health and state government officials.

Student activities and campus events will also follow guidance from CDC and the Governor’s office.

Personal Safety and Campus Health

In the coming weeks, the College will provide a Returning to Campus guide for students that will provide information about personal safety, campus health and healthcare resources. It will also outline the expectations for students living, learning or working campus. The College is also engaged with the Kent County Health Department and on-campus healthcare provider regarding health and safety protocols on campus.

All students will receive a Saints Health Kit, which will contain personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning and disinfecting supplies.

Mental health and wellbeing resources are also available through Campus Ministry and Counseling Health and Wellness Services.

The College will provide details for social distancing in offices, residence halls, classrooms, dining hall and other common areas and shared spaces on campus. Each space has unique uses, needs and challenges. Actions may include adjustments to room layout and usage, installation of social-distancing apparatus, other physical changes, limits on capacity, etc. Details will be shared on the Saints Together website.

The College will also focus on enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of public spaces, including restrooms, with a focus on increased frequency of cleaning, in line with guidance from CDC and EPA.

In classrooms, high-touch surfaces will be cleaned each morning during the week, including disinfecting of tabletops. Disinfecting wipes will be provided in each classroom to allow students or employees to clean surfaces in between classes. The College will also use disinfecting sprayers.

Other public spaces and high-touch surfaces (e.g., door handles, railings, light switches, elevator buttons, stairwells, meeting rooms and break rooms) will be disinfected daily.

The College has also added new hand-sanitizing dispensers at or near the entrances to most buildings on campus.

Additional training and health monitoring protocols will be communicated soon.

Phased Return to Campus for Employees

As described above, some faculty and staff will return to on-campus work gradually. The rest of the College’s employees will continue to telecommute.

Employees that return to the workplace will be required to complete a series of training modules and conduct a daily symptom self-screen.

Communication and Information

Aquinas College will continue to update the Saints Together: A Plan for Fall 2020 website with the most up-to-date information about the College’s approach.

The College will also communicate to our community via virtual and face-to-face meetings, email, social media, campus signage, digital signage across campus. We will also continue to partner with student leaders, RAs, faculty and staff to provide regular information, education and reminders about health and safety practices.

The College will also provide information to our community partners and neighbors in order to engage in the protection of the health and safety of the broader community.

“Even with our detailed plans, we recognize that some members of our campus community may have specific circumstances or needs that should be addressed with care and compassion,” President Quinn said. “We will continue to work with students and employees individually to provide solutions for those that need it.”

It has taken the hard work of our entire campus to develop this plan, and it will take the continued efforts and vigilance of our entire campus to execute it throughout the year,” President Quinn said. “I am grateful to all those who are upholding the values of this institution so that we can serve the needs of our students and help them achieve their goals.”

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