Dear Salve Regina community,
I hope you are well and finding time to enjoy the summer in what we know to be uncertain times. I am writing today to reconfirm Salve Regina University’s commitment to beginning our 2020-2021 academic year on campus in Newport. I also want to assure you of our institutional commitment to the health, safety and security of our students, faculty and staff as we continue to navigate uncharted waters in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Salve Regina’s campus readiness plan has now been reviewed by the Rhode Island Department of Health. I am pleased to share the key components with you in this message, and to announce the launch of Back to Salve, our website designed to serve as a repository for details related to our plan for the 2020-2021 academic year, as well as essential coronavirus information. Please visit this website often, as new information will be added throughout the summer. Beginning with today’s announcement, we will also be sending weekly updates to address topics related to preparation for the fall semester.
Our decision-making process for welcoming students, faculty and staff back to Salve Regina is driven by our dedication to maintaining the health and vitality of our community, and the guiding principles of upholding academic integrity, preserving a quality Mercy education, and protecting the transformative opportunities offered through a residential student experience. We are also driven by our desire to be responsible members of the larger community within which our campus operates.
The University’s configuration in terms of overall enrollment, average class size and location within Rhode Island has provided some advantages when trying to maintain social distancing and limiting group sizes. Still, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that substantial modifications to a more traditional life on campus are necessary as we continue to face the challenges of an unpredictable global pandemic. Among these will be:
- Physical changes to campus as we employ measures to de-densify classrooms, residence halls and communal spaces.
- A large-scale deployment of classroom technology to support instruction whether a student is in the classroom or participating remotely.
- Cleaning and sanitation policies, with an emphasis on high-touch surfaces.
- A University-wide commitment to health screenings, symptom monitoring and the common courtesy of face coverings.
Salve Regina’s approach may differ from some institutions and align with others. Like every college or university, we are facing the complex nature of this situation strategically within the parameters of our campus and in accordance with our guiding principles. We have also developed contingency plans to respond to situations that may emerge in a timely and effective manner in conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Health. Again, the health and safety of all members of our community is our top priority.
Academically, we have planned for a dual modality delivery option that will allow for courses to continue online in a seamless manner should the need arise. For this reason, we feel we do not need to adjust our academic calendar (Sept. 8 to Dec. 19) or modify our Thanksgiving schedule at this time. Residence halls will remain open for Thanksgiving, spring and Easter breaks in order for students to remain on campus rather than travel if they so choose. It is difficult for us to predict what, if any, travel restrictions may be in place at any future point in time. Please be assured we are prepared to address these situations as they arise without interruption to the academic schedule.
In planning for this academic year, we have accounted for ways to address both full and staggered classes, quarantined students continuing with their learning, quarantined faculty teaching remotely for multiple class sessions, international students learning remotely, students and faculty with health concerns choosing to learn or teach from home, and the possibility for a second wave of fully remote learning if public health realities make that necessary. We reviewed data from our survey last spring and have invested heavily in both technology and training programs to engage all students deeply in the learning experience.
- Salve Regina’s undergraduate and graduate courses will be offered in two modalities: in the classroom and remotely to allow for students and faculty to attend in person or remotely as circumstances change. Each classroom space will be outfitted with videoconferencing systems and resources to enable livestreaming and capture of each lecture offered for students to access in real-time or after the fact.
- Students who are unable to return to campus due to border restrictions or concerns related to coronavirus will be able to enroll in a full-time schedule remotely.
- Classroom space has been reduced by 45-60 percent due to group size restrictions and social distancing requirements. To accommodate those restrictions, we have located additional rooms for undergraduate instruction and modified our academic schedule to extend to weekday evenings. Beginning July 9, you will be able to see which courses are being taught online for the semester in My Salve.
- For those classes too large to meet as a whole given current social distancing requirements, students will be assigned to learning groups. When one group attends in person, other groups will participate remotely, taking advantage of the University’s substantial investment in new classroom technology. All students attending from campus will have in-person classroom experiences; however, students may attend one day a week for a specific class, rather than two, depending on the size of the class.
- Finally, classes will end each day at staggered times to adhere to social distancing guidelines in hallways.
Campus life is vital to every student’s overall experience. This year, compliance with the modifications identified below will be vital to maintaining the health and safety of all within our community. Our goal is to ensure that while the student residential experience may be different, it will also be supportive, enriching and positive.
As outlined in the housing plan sent at the end of June, the University must mitigate the risk of students living in close proximity. The majority of rooms will be designated as single or double occupancy, with slightly more than 30 triples or quads based on square footage large enough to support social distancing requirements. All first-year students will remain on campus, with Hunt Hall being re-designated for first-year housing. Sophomore students who had planned to reside in Hunt Hall or who are impacted by de-densification needs will be relocated to on-campus apartments, or they may also choose to relocate to the Newport Marriott. Salve Regina is contracting with the Newport Marriott to resolve the need for additional rooms and to accommodate juniors and seniors who had opted not to live in off-campus apartments. The Office of Residence Life will continue to work with students this week and beyond to ensure adequate housing is available.
- Students will be required to wear face masks in common areas and encouraged to wear them in their rooms when others are present.
- Non-Salve Regina guests will not be allowed in residence halls.
- Salve Regina students will be able to visit other students in campus residences. However, students will need to maintain social distancing. Room occupancy will be limited to double the room residency (i.e. two in a single, four in a double). Please note this may change as guidelines for social distancing may change.
- Residence halls and the rooms at Newport Marriott will remain open for Thanksgiving, spring and Easter breaks in order for students to have the opportunity to remain on campus rather than travel. Students will be asked to complete an extended stay form in order to track those who will remain on campus. Travel at this time is not prohibited should students wish to do so during the break periods.
Move-In and Orientation
To allow for social distancing, first-year and returning student move-ins will now be scheduled in three-hour appointments over multiple days. In late July, the Office of Residence Life will be providing a scheduling tool in MyHousing for students to sign up online for a move-in time. This will be similar to the procedure used in late spring for the retrieval of personal items. Specific details and a list of what to bring to campus will also be provided in a weekly update in late July.
- First-year and transfer move-in days will be Tuesday, Sept. 1 and Wednesday, Sept. 2 to coincide with Orientation activities.
- Returning student move-in days will be Sunday, Sept. 6 and Monday, Sept. 7. Again, details will be provided in late July.
- Two family members from the same household will be allowed to accompany each student during the move-in process.
- Orientation for new students has been redesigned to allow for social distancing. The first-year class will be assigned into groups of 20 or fewer students based on their assigned First Year Transitions (FYT) course. Students will stay in these FYT groups throughout the Orientation period and will be assigned to one or two peer mentors who will accompany their activities.
- Indoor and outdoor spaces across campus have been identified where these groups can take part in Orientation programming on a rotational basis, while maintaining social distancing. Some activities will be conducted virtually as needed.
Group Gatherings (Formal and Spontaneous)
At this time, all academic meetings and events, including student organizations and activities, will be managed in a hybrid or remote fashion to meet state requirements regarding group sizes in a contained area. As the semester progresses, we will review events according to state regulations. Events will be evaluated based on availability of spaces that will accommodate social distancing for both participants and any allowed guests.
Much public discussion has been centered around dining in restaurants and other eateries and the impact that such activity has had on the spread of coronavirus. Salve Regina has worked with the Rhode Island Department of Health to establish dining and meal protocols that are consistent with state regulations for restaurants and congregate living facilities.
- Occupancies in dining halls will be reduced by 50 percent.
- Alternative seating areas, both indoors and outdoors (especially while the weather permits), will be set up in proximity to food service venues.
- Buffet-style food will be eliminated. More grab-and-go food items will be prepared.
- All tables in seating areas will be placed eight feet apart and plexiglass will be added to the back of booths to provide additional protection.
- All tables and seating will be cleaned between each use.
- Plates, utensils and cups will be delivered to customers by dining staff with proper protective equipment.
The status of athletics on college and university campuses continues to be a moving target. Although plans could change subject to state guidelines and restrictions, Salve Regina is currently planning to host limited athletic contests without spectators in the fall. Student athletes will begin arriving on campus Aug. 12, when the football team returns. Field hockey and men’s soccer will return Aug. 18, followed by women’s soccer on Aug. 19, volleyball on Aug. 21 and cross country on Aug. 27. Decisions about athletics are being made in conjunction with the state of Rhode Island, the NCAA and the Commonwealth Coast Conference and are subject to change based on public health conditions and other operational factors.
Health and Safety
As our top priority for welcoming our students, faculty and staff back to Salve Regina, the University has diligently pursued measures designed to keep our community as safe as possible. Each individual bears some responsibility to ensure the safety of others.
- All Salve Regina community members will receive training through online videos and residential programming on how to prevent and mitigate disease spread as well as new campus policies regarding the use of face masks and social distancing.
- All community members will be expected to follow guidelines on using face masks and social distancing while on campus and in the broader community.
- All community members will be expected to self-screen themselves prior to returning to campus for coronavirus symptoms, and to participate daily in the use of an online screening tool prior to leaving their residences. Screening will include a daily temperature check. This tool is currently being tested by a pilot group of employees already on campus and further details will be forthcoming.
- The governor of Rhode Island recently announced a 14-day quarantine or testing requirement for students returning to campus from areas with high rates of infection. As the specific areas requiring testing are subject to revision between now and the start of move-in, additional details will be forthcoming.
- All international students are required by state government to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving on campus. The Office of International Program will contact impacted students in the coming days. Salve Regina will support any residential student in quarantine with their daily needs.
- The University has developed a plan for quarantine and isolation of suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus. We are committed to working with local health authorities and the state to protect community members in the event of a confirmed case.
- The University will periodically test a subset of our student and staff populations, including athletes, to monitor the potential for a coronavirus outbreak in our community.
- A supply of face masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer will be maintained on campus for those who may be in need.
- Salve Regina is contracting with an external provider to support coronavirus testing for symptomatic individuals as well as some asymptomatic surveillance testing.
- Health Services will continue to use telehealth and in-person consultations by appointment.
Environmental Health and Facilities
Salve Regina’s multifaceted approach to maintaining the health and vitality of our University community is key to our campus readiness program.
- Prior to the return of students on campus, all residence halls, classrooms and common areas will be deep cleaned and disinfected.
- Cleaning and disinfection schedules across campus will be increased to meet or exceed Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
- Physical barriers will be installed in all locations where transactions take place or there is routine interaction between staff and students (points of sale, mailroom, registrar, computer assistance).
- Six-foot social distancing will be observed in classrooms using markings on the floor to guide faculty members lecturing in front of a class and desk positioning to ensure proper distance between students.
- Occupancies in classrooms, labs, gathering spaces and residence halls will be reduced, and excess furniture will be removed to support appropriate social distancing.
- Occupancies in dining halls will be reduced by 50 percent.
- Signage will be installed throughout campus to reinforce the need for masks or other face coverings, social distancing and the correct hygiene protocols for reducing the spread of the virus.
- Disinfecting wipe stations and cleaning supplies will be provided in classrooms, office spaces and common areas across campus.
- To minimize health risks, all employee office spaces will be evaluated for compliance with social distancing. Customized measures will be taken as needed, including installing plastic shields in service offices, establishing office visit restrictions and protocols, rearranging desks/cubicles, and reducing office density through rotating on/off campus work.
- Salve Regina will require all staff and faculty to wear face masks or face coverings while working on campus when in the presence of others and in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (common workspaces, meeting rooms, classrooms, etc.).
- Employees that are at higher risk for severe symptoms of coronavirus will be able to self-identify and request a reasonable accommodation to reduce the risk of contracting the virus at work.
The University fully recognizes the value of frequent and accurate communication. As announced earlier, in addition to the Back to Salve website, we will:
- Provide weekly email updates pertaining to the 2020-2021 academic year.
- Display posters, signs and other visual aids reminding everyone of our collective role in keeping the University community safe.
- Continue with our coronavirus hotline at (401) 341-2329 as well as the email address firstname.lastname@example.org for specific questions or concerns.
- Host town hall meetings to address questions pertaining to campus readiness. Invitations to register for each town hall will be sent later this week through Eventbrite. Town hall dates include one for faculty and staff at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 15 and two for students and families. The first will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 and the second will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6.
As the parent of a rising junior, and as Salve Regina’s president, I fully understand the concerns and anxiety many of you are facing. I want you to know that our plan will be flexible and responsive to changes in the coronavirus outbreak, and related to local, state and national guidance. Salve Regina is a Mercy institution. We take seriously the call to walk with others through the challenges of life. Few of us imagined that we would be facing a global pandemic together in 2020, but we are. We will get through this together. I hope you can take the time to read through our plan further and review the information presented on our Back to Salve website. I look forward to seeing everyone back on campus very soon.
All my best,
Kelli J. Armstrong, Ph.D.