Message from President Dorman: Fall Semester Update

Message from President Dorman: Fall Semester Update

Dear GC Colleagues:

The System office has reviewed and approved the campus Fall Face-to-Face Reopening Plans, and we are now in the process of preparing for the return of our students, faculty and staff.  While we are eager to bring the campus community together, there is still much to do in preparation for your arrival. As always, the health and safety of the entire Georgia College community will remain our top priority. Please know that the fall semester will not be “business as usual;” and I am asking you to remain flexible, adaptive and patient as we resume our operations.

Over the last few days, facilities operations employees have been on campus cleaning and readying campus. Currently, members of the administration are intermittently on campus discussing how they might accomplish a return of faculty and staff to campus while respecting social distancing requirements. Our campus will open to the public on June 29 with limited office and staff availability. We fully expect that many staff members will continue to work virtually, if possible, to reduce the density of people on campus. However, our offices must be open and available to the public as we begin to welcome students to campus for the fall.

I would like to remind each of us of our campus values of Reason, Respect, and Responsibility. We believe we have a responsibility to provide everyone with a safe and healthy environment. We also have a responsibility to those who work at GC and to protect their health and safety. With that in mind, we believe the guidelines we have developed are reasonable and are in keeping with our review of Georgia Department of Public Health and CDC guidance.  Therefore, I hope you will respect your health and the health and safety of everyone on campus by complying with the guidelines we have developed. Even though you may not feel vulnerable yourself, I hope that you will respect the health and safety of others and follow these basic guidelines.  

Below, you will find the latest information, guidance and expectations related to the reopening of our campus. We will continue to monitor guidance and directives from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update the campus community as necessary.

Important Upcoming Dates for Faculty: 

  • I hope you can join me next week for a Virtual Town Hall session for each college. If you cannot join during the time designated for your college feel free to join online during another college session:
    • Tuesday, June 23 - College of Education - 9:00 a.m.
    • Tuesday, June 23 - College of Business - 2:00 p.m.
    • Thursday, June 25 - College of Arts & Sciences - 2:00 p.m.
    • Friday, June 26 - Library - 9:00 a.m.
    • Friday, June 26 - College of Health Sciences - 11:00 a.m.
  • The Faculty Welcome event will take place virtually on the morning of August 6. More information will follow.
  • New Faculty Orientation will occur August 3-5. More information will follow to all new faculty.
  • College/Department Assessment day will occur August 7 (morning).
  • GC READS will take place August 10 (morning) and August 11 (afternoon).
  • Making Excellence Inclusive for Faculty and Staff will be held virtually on the afternoon of August 6. More information will follow.
  • College and Department meetings will take place on August 7 (afternoon) & August 10 (afternoon).
  • The University Senate Governance Retreat will take place virtually on August 10 (morning).
  • Convocation will take place virtually on August 11.

 

Academic Calendar:  To reduce risks associated with holiday travel, we have revised our academic calendar so that students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving weekend. Fall semester will begin a few days earlier on August 12, and classes will end on November 24. Final examinations will take place online. There will be no fall break this year. The University Senate’s governance calendar also has been posted online.

Academic Classrooms:  We are planning for face-to-face, on-campus instruction with social distancing. Classroom settings may be reconfigured, and section sizes will be reduced to allow for social distancing. We have brought larger rooms on the schedule, and we are configuring them as classrooms to allow for more social distancing. Rotating class schedules and synchronous online pedagogy may also be implemented by faculty members to further reduce the number of students in labs and classrooms. In addition, classrooms are being modified with plexiglass shields so that professors can lecture safely.  Faculty members will continue to work with any student who has been exposed to or becomes ill because of COVID-19 to ensure they can continue to make academic progress during periods of quarantining or self-isolation.

In addition to facemasks, faculty will have an option of also using a face shield.  Classrooms will be equipped with large vinyl/plexiglass dividers that will be positioned between the teaching area and the students.  The height and width of these portable shields will vary depending on the classroom configuration.  While classrooms will be cleaned daily, we are planning on stocking classrooms with sanitizing wipes so that the instructor and students can wipe down their work/study area if they desire.  The combination of employing (1) social distancing, (2) facemasks, (3) face shields, (4) plexiglass dividers, and (5) sanitizing wipes in the classrooms is aimed at creating an instructional environment which places health and safety of faculty and students as the primary consideration.

Additionally, all classrooms and labs will be equipped with technology to support the hybrid delivery option (rotating class schedules).  Specifically, cameras will be integrated in our existing classroom computer stations to provide instructors with the ability to transmit the course content.  Document cameras will also be available in the classroom, providing faculty an additional option to support their instructional goals.  Finally, in addition to the existing technological infrastructure, classrooms will be equipped with appropriate software, allowing faculty the option of utilizing their own iPad and Apple Pencil (AirServer Connect) to manage the available classroom resources for the delivery of their courses.  

For fall 2020, the following principles will be used to reassign classrooms to allow for physical distancing:

  • The highest priority will be allowing as many students in as many classes to meet together for face-to-face instruction with social distancing.
  • If a class is already scheduled in a room that will allow all registered students to attend class face-to-face with social distancing at the same time, then that class will initially remain in that room. 
  • If there is an alternate meeting location that would accommodate the entire class meeting face-to-face, then the class will be relocated to that new location.
  • If there is not an available room that can accommodate the entire class meeting face-to-face, every effort will be made to identify a classroom that allows at least half of the students to attend face-to-face every other class period (hybrid). These classes will be marked in the schedule so students know when to attend.
  • When no other rooms are available, classes may need to be separated by more than ½ to accommodate distancing in the classroom.
  • After consideration of the criteria above, the department or faculty member’s room and building preferences will be considered when there are equal options for a room.
  • Reassigning lab spaces will be the responsibility of the department.

 

Regarding clinical, student teaching or internships, students must follow the provisions and requirements of the site where the clinical, student teaching or internship, is being conducted. If  students are uncomfortable with the requirements of the site, they should contact their university coordinator. The university will work with sites and students on an individual basis to ensure that requirements are met in case of issues that arise.

The Center for Teaching and Learning is available to provide instructional support for faculty in the fall. Whether it is managing classroom technology (cameras, document cameras, etc.), helping structure face-to-face and/or hybrid classes, facilitating online learning platforms (Georgia View, Zoom, WebEx, etc.), aiding asynchronous instruction and active learning pedagogy in the age of COVID19, or anything in between, the Center for Teaching and Learning is available to provide support. The CTL offers individual training, faculty learning communities, and supports faculty, staff and students in use of D2L/GeorgiaVIEW through webinars, resources and one-on-one consultations. The Center for Teaching and Learning will make video tutorials and one-pagers available to assist with the hybrid classroom setup, to be located in the CTL Faculty Resources Course found in GeorgiaVIEW. Additional resources can be found at GC Keeps Teaching and GC Keeps Learning websites.  Please reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning with any questions. They can be reached at (478) 445-2520 or by e-mail at ctl@gcsu.edu.

Campus Environment: The University has been reconfiguring common areas on campus to ensure that people are spatially distant as part of our mitigation efforts against COVID-19. To support these efforts, group events or activities in the fall semester that involve physical crowds on campus will be discouraged. Those offices that experience frequent in-person interaction, including the Business Office, the Bobcat Card Office as well as other front-line areas of campus, may have plexiglass barriers or other relevant barriers to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.  The campus will feature new hand sanitizer dispensers and social distance markings in strategic areas of campus to minimize people density in certain areas of our campus, including campus dining locations.

Dining Services: Dining services at The MAX will be open, although the number of admitted patrons will be limited to adhere to guidance regarding social distancing. There will be no self-service stations in The MAX, and disposable utensils will be used wherever possible. In addition, seating areas will be physically reconfigured to ensure spatial distancing is maintained. The University will also expand grab-and-go and prepare boxed meals to provide more options for students and faculty/staff and to further minimize crowding in our dining areas.  The Subway location on campus will be temporarily closed while Chick-fil-A will remain open with spatially reconfigured seating areas.

Hygiene Guidelines:  Upon our return to campus in the fall, we are expecting all students, faculty and staff to follow the guidelines specified by the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC. These guidelines currently include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue or inside your elbow.

 

Face Masks (UPDATED JULY 6, 2020 ): Effective July 15, 2020, all USG institutions will require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities and buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible.  Use of face coverings will be in addition to, and is not a substitute for, social distancing. Face coverings are not required in one’s own housing suite or residence hall, when alone in an enclosed office or study room, or in campus outdoor settings where social distancing requirements are met.

Anyone not using a face covering when required will be asked to wear one or must leave the area.  Repeated refusal to comply with the requirement may result in discipline through the applicable conduct code for faculty, staff or students. Reasonable accommodations may be made for those who are unable to wear a face covering for documented health reasons.

 

Social Distancing:  We are asking all students, faculty and staff to continue to maintain social distancing. This means, whenever possible, at least 6 feet of distance should be maintained from others and to avoid gathering in groups. In addition, we ask everyone to avoid handshaking and any other unnecessary person-to-person contact. We also advise against using other people’s phones, desks, office spaces or other personal items to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

Alternate Work Arrangements will be made for Employees who are at High-Risk: Individuals who fall into one of the following GDPH and CDC categories for higher risk for severe illness with COVID-19 may request alternate work arrangements.  Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate-to-severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised
    • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
    • People with diabetes
    • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
    • People with liver disease

The USG Human Resources department has provided a common form for employees to use in making such a request. Documentation for underlying medical conditions will be required as a part of the request. If you believe you fall into a high-risk category that would make you a vulnerable employee, please contact Amber Collins (478-445-4236) at the Georgia College Human Resources Office. GC HR will review the request and, upon approval, will work with the employee and their immediate supervisor in documenting and providing for an alternate work arrangement.

 

Monitoring Employees for COVID-19:

Self-Monitoring – It is your responsibility to monitor your health. Do not come to work if you are ill. All employees should be diligent about self-monitoring.  Symptoms of COVID-19 can be found online and are listed below:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

 

This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms; and other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. As more is known, other symptoms may emerge. Employees should be vigilant about checking their own health. If you have any of these symptoms DO NOT COME TO WORK.

Temperature Checks: Employees may be asked to engage in temperature checks while on campus.  Normal temperature should not exceed 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit without the aid of fever-reducing medications.  If an employee shows a temperature above 100.4, the employee will be sent home by their supervisor immediately and should contact their healthcare provider.  GC HR will contact the employee that day to determine the extent of the illness. To return to work, employees should provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result OR should be without a fever above 100.4 for a period of 72 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medications and have no additional symptoms. Employees should use applicable leave options which will be described by HR.

Travel: Non-essential business travel is prohibited until further notice. For personal travel, please be aware that the CDC offers important guidelines regarding international and cruise ship travel. There is widespread, ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus worldwide (see Global COVID-19 Pandemic Notice). If you have traveled internationally in the past 14 days, stay home and monitor your health. Stay home for 14 days from the time you returned home from international travel.

Testing:  At this time, there are no plans to routinely test for COVID-19 among otherwise healthy faculty and staff. However, if you are a GC employee who is sick or becomes sick with COVID-19 symptoms, you will be asked to not be on campus and be expected to provide results of a COVID-19 test prior to your return to campus. You will be assisted by HR in finding the proper outlet for testing. We continue to monitor the Georgia Department of Public Health and CDC regarding testing requirements.

Contact tracing: The Georgia Department of Public Health has committed to contact tracing. If you or someone you work with is diagnosed with COVID-19, the Department of Public Health will be notified. They are the responsible party for contract tracing, and they will determine if further tracing and testing needs to be done by you or others in the office environment.

Isolation & Quarantine: If you are COVID-19 positive or believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 prior to coming to work, you must contact HR. If you have become sick while on campus, you will be sent home immediately; and HR will contact you. HR will consult with you regarding your testing options. If testing indicates that you are COVID positive, you will be directed to self-quarantine. During self-quarantine, you will be expected to work from home if possible. Should you become sick, you will be expected to take appropriate leave; and work will be discontinued. If you come into contact with someone who has been identified as COVID-19 positive either on or off the job, you should tell your supervisor, self-monitor and contact HR immediately. If you have questions regarding your need for a test based upon exposure with others who may or may not have been COVID-19 positive or other potential exposure situations which arise, you may contact Rhonda Dixon in Student Health Services at ext. 1282.

Central points of notification:  Requests regarding HR related issues should be sent to Amber Collins (478-445-4236) at the Georgia College Human Resources Office.  Health-related questions should be directed to Britt McRae (478-445-5288) at Student Health Services.

Concluding Remarks: The University continues to receive guidance from relevant state and public health officials along with directives from the University System of Georgia. As a result, we expect changes along the way as new information emerges and as guidance and directives are adjusted. I ask that you please remain flexible, patient and steadfast as we proceed forward together as a community.  I pledge that we will continue to communicate more specifics as we prepare and implement the guidance and directives that we receive.

I recognize that these are very unusual and unprecedented times for all of us. Please know that we are working diligently along with the University System of Georgia to ensure the health and safety of everyone. There are still many more details that are being worked out as we prepare for the fall semester, and we will communicate more as new information emerges.

Kind Regards,

Dr. Steve Dorman
President

Dr. Costas Spirou
Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs

 

 

Updated: 7/7/2020
Brittiny Johnson
brittiny.johnson@gcsu.edu
478-445-1934
University Communications