ISU students back to school, but school not back to normal

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NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) – Illinois State University (ISU) President and other university officials discuss the plan to bring students and faculty back to campus while addressing concerns for public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students want to be here, our upper-class students have told us that, our incoming freshman have told us that,” said Dietz. “They want to be here, and so, we are trying to meet that need, and be as safe as we know how to be.”

Dietz said the new guidelines will promote safety for students, faculty, and staff returning to campus.

“Our goal is to work with each college, each school, each department, to help them feel safe comfortable, and above all successful,” said Dr. Aondover Tarhule, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

The official guidelines are listed below:

Classroom Instruction 

  • Illinois State will continue to provide a blend of face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses.  However, as we continue to evaluate how to meet requirements for physical distancing in our classrooms as well as provide the safest environment possible for our students, faculty, and staff, additional courses will be moved to an online or hybrid format.Faculty may choose an online, hybrid, or face-to-face modality as long as the course allows for that level of flexibility.   
  • If the virus continues to get worse in our area, the governor enacts a stay–at–home order, and/or our school community experiences multiple cases of COVID-19, faculty will be prepared to move face-to-face and hybrid courses online if necessary for the health and safety of our Redbird family.   
  • The University plans to assist, to the fullest extent possible, students in need with technology resources to help them be academically successful.

Fall Break 

  • Illinois State will follow the published academic calendar with Election Day added as a holiday. The fall 2020 semester will begin on Monday, August 17, and end Friday, December 11. The University will move to online instruction after fall break beginning Monday, November 30.While face-to-face and hybrid instruction will end at noon on Saturday, November 21, instruction will continue online through the end of the semester. This impacts one week of regular classroom instruction and finals week. Final examinations will be delivered online. Clinical and experiential activities will be addressed on a program-by-program basis.
  • Students will have the option of returning to campus following fall break or remaining at their permanent residence. Therefore, other Illinois State services will operate normally through the end of the semester.
  • Residence halls and dining centers will remain open, as will Milner Library, the Student Fitness Center, the Bone Student Center, Student Health Services, academic support units, and other offices that provide university services to students, faculty, and staff, and facilitate university operations.
  • This decision is being made in an effort to provide students who can stay home with the opportunity to do so and to de-densify campus immediately following fall break and the Thanksgiving holiday—when many students, faculty, and staff visit with friends and family as well as travel. Such activities increase exposure to risks associated with the spread of COVID-19 and coincide with the beginning of flu season.

Face Coverings 

  • Face coverings are required for students, faculty, staff, and visitors on campus in all common indoor spaces, including classrooms, and in outdoor spaces where it is difficult to reliably maintain 6-foot physical distancing.
  • Students will be provided with one face covering by the University and will be strongly encouraged to bring additional coverings to campus.  
  • The University’s approach to face coverings is consistent with the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan and guidance provided by the Illinois Board of Higher Education as well as recommended guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the American College Health Association.  The full Face Coverings and Physical Distancing Requirements Procedure for Fall 2020 is available on the Coronavirus website

Health and Wellness  

  • The University will provide a blend of telehealth and telemental health services in addition to limited in-person services for students. Student Counseling Services provides many opportunities for students in need of mental health support. Mental health awareness is extremely important for our students, faculty and staff as we enter the fall term knowing that many uncertainties exist regarding COVID-19 and that many in our Redbird family have been disproportionally affected by the coronavirus.  
  • Visit the Redbirds Keep Thriving webpage for more information about various health and wellness resources and tools that are available to you now and throughout the upcoming year. 
  • Limited in-person health services will continue to be available. 
  • The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is free, voluntary, and confidential, and can provide a variety of invaluable resources for faculty and staff. The EAP extends its resources to dependents covered by the group insurance plan. 

Testing and Tracing  

  • It is strongly recommended that students be tested for COVID-19 before arriving on campus. Please keep in mind that most testing centers can take up to five days to provide test results. Those who test positive, should not return to campus until they have recovered.  
  • Anyone who believes that they have been exposed to COVID-19 should be tested.
  • Students, faculty, and staff are strongly encouraged to avoid large gatherings and limit travel prior to returning to campus.
  • The Dean of Students Office will assist students with absence notification and academic success resources for those who become ill and must be away from campus for an extended period of time.  
  • The University is finalizing plans for symptom checking but will expect students to record symptoms and take necessary precautions if they are symptomatic of COVID-19, including not attending class, etc. Students should bring a thermometer with them to campus in order to complete symptom checks. 
  • Student Health Services will have the ability to test symptomatic students on-campus with same-day results.
  • There is a state testing center in the Bloomington-Normal community, which is located at the Interstate Center. The site is currently open to anyone who would like to receive a test. Insurance, if available, is charged. If the individual does not have applicable insurance, the test is conducted at no charge to the individual. 
  •  The McLean County Health Department will conduct all contact tracing and notify close contacts of their exposure status.

Cleaning and Facilities 

  • The University will continue to provide enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout campus including—but not limited to—doorknobs, light switches, elevator panels, hand railings, reception areas, classroom spaces, conference rooms, and restrooms. Classrooms will be disinfected nightly. In addition, cleaning supplies will be available in every classroom and students will be encouraged to wipe down their desk and chair before and after class.
  • Campus offices have been provided with cleaning supplies and the University will continue to source large quantities of supplies to provide to departments on an as–needed basis.
  • Staff are in the process of installing floor and furniture decals to better define physical distancing in common spaces and line queues. Traffic flow within classroom spaces will be designated.
  • Plexiglass has been installed in high traffic reception areas and studies are on-going regarding the installation of plexiglass in classrooms. 
  • More than 200 hand–sanitizing stations are available throughout campus facilities and traditional water fountains have been marked out–of–service and bottle refill stations are available. 

Employment

  • Any employee who can perform all or most of their job responsibilities from an off-campus location may request to work remotely. Civil Service and Administrative Professional employees will work with their supervisor to develop a temporary Work from Home agreement. At this time, the University allows agreements to be extended through December 31, 2020.           

On-Campus Housing 

  • University Housing Services will implement various safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our residential environments. Additional safety measures within the residence halls and university apartments include—but are not limited to—physical distancing in all common spaces, no triple or quad occupancy rooms, enhanced cleaning of restrooms and high touch surfaces, quarantine and isolation protocols, and no off-campus or overnight guests.
  • Students will be required to wear a face covering in the residence halls when outside of their residence hall room, except when not feasible. University Housing will modify and add to these safety measures as necessary throughout the year.
  • Students who test positive for COVID-19, or who are deemed a close contact, will be asked to return to their permanent address to recuperate for a period of time determined by the McLean County Health Department in collaboration with Student Health Services.
  • For on-campus students who cannot return to their permanent residence, University Housing Services will have a limited number of private rooms for quarantine and isolation and Campus Dining will provide meals for students. If a roommate tests positive, students may be required to quarantine or isolate as appropriate.
  • Move-In will be held August 7-16 and will be appointment-based to limit the total number of people moving in during a specific time and to allow for proper physical distancing. 

Dining 

  • Campus Dining will continue to provide a wide range of residential dining meal options as well as increased grab-and-go meals for carryout.
  • Watterson Dining Commons and Marketplace at Linkins will open for early Move-In starting at 11 a.m. on August 7.  
  • To accommodate students in a variety of locations and in accordance with physical distancing guidelines, a new satellite dining location will open on August 17 in the Circus Room inside the Bone Student Center.  Only meal plan holders will have access to this express option.  
  • There will be additional outdoor seating located near each dining center.
  • Dining centers will provide physically distanced tables with a maximum of four individuals per table.
  • For the Fall 2020 term, guests will not be allowed in residential dining centers, which is consistent with the guest policy within residential housing communities.
  • Face coverings will be required in all dining locations. 
  • Students who are asked to quarantine or isolate in spaces designated by University Housing, will be provided access to hot and shelf-stable food daily.
  • Off-campus meal plans will continue to be available. 

Student engagement 

  • As we approach the fall semester, student engagement opportunities will follow health and safety guidelines while offering programming for transitions to college life and involvement opportunities to career readiness and commencement. It is important that as we maintain physical distancing, we support social connection for all students, and build upon our strong Redbird community.  
  • Welcome Week, our fall orientation program for new first–time in college and transfer students, will be a blend of synchronous and asynchronous virtual activities that will coincide with Move-In.
  • The Dean of Students Office is exploring software for Festival ISU, the fall involvement fair, to be held virtually as a synchronous event over a series of days based on student organization category. Students will have opportunities to learn more about this event and various involvement opportunities by visiting the Redbird Life involvement portal.  
  • On-going support will be provided to both sponsored and independent registered student organizations. Organizations are encouraged to create hybrid programs for both their members and the entire student body, which should include both face coverings and physical distancing.
  • Multicultural Center staff will provide a blend of virtual, in person, and passive programming. Construction on the new Multicultural Center was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Sorority and fraternity recruitment will be a hybrid model of virtual activities and in-person interviews, held in September.
  • Voter registration and education campaigns will be promoted through social media, video, and through student, faculty, and registered student organization networks.
  • Career Services will provide career development and readiness programs, workshops, advising, and networking events in a variety of formats, including virtual, hybrid, and in-person. It is never too early to start exploring and utilizing Career Services. Make sure you “opt-in” to Hire-A-Redbird for updates and information about attending virtual career fairs this fall. 
  • Employment opportunities will continue to be available for students across campus.  Students are encouraged to access ISU Jobs site to review and apply for these opportunities. 
  • At this time, in-person commencement ceremonies are planned for December 2020. If COVID-19 health guidance prevents the University from holding in-person ceremonies, a virtual winter commencement ceremony will be held similar to what was provided in spring 2020. 
  • We also know that the University must plan an extensive marketing campaign urging all students about the critical importance of physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and to every extent possible, avoiding large gatherings of people who are close together and not following health and safety guidelines.

Athletics 

  • Athletics is planning to begin fall sports and student-athletes are returning to campus in phases. Prior to returning to workouts or practices, student-athletes and coaching staffs are undergoing COVID testing. As we move forward, Intercollegiate Athletics is closely monitoring the guidance provided by the NCAA and our various conferences as well as that provided by state and government health officials. At this time, we are currently planning for limited spectator access to our athletic competitions and no tailgating based on current Restore Illinois Phase 4 guidance.

Campus Recreation 

  • Campus Recreation will have activities in each area, many with both in-person and virtual delivery methods. Intramural Sports and Sport Clubs will return some standard activities as it is deemed safe to do so, and new opportunities are being planned for students. 
  • The Student Fitness Center and Bowling and Billiards Center will be open and while hours might be adjusted and there will be some new expectations for safety, there will still be plenty of opportunities to enjoy working out, bowling, and even a group fitness class. The Adventure Program has opportunities for team building and equipment continues to be available for rental.

Travel 

  • University-sponsored travel will be limited and align with current Illinois Department of Health and CDC guidelines. Employees and students planning university-sponsored travel outside of Illinois are required to complete a pre-check assessment.
  • Overall, students, faculty, and staff are asked to minimize their travel immediately prior to and at the beginning of the fall term in order to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 on the campus community.
  • Decisions about spring study abroad will be made early in the fall term.

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