St. Olaf College | COVID-19

March 11, 2020 at 11:03 a.m.

To the faculty and academic staff of St. Olaf CollegeFrom Marci Sortor, Provost And Dean Of The College

Dear Faculty and Academic Staff Colleagues:

I know that you are worrying about how to be ready when the path forward is not certain. As you are undoubtedly aware, colleges and universities are pursuing a variety of strategies in response to COVID-19, depending on their location and the risk they perceive. President Anderson, the Coronavirus Response Team and the President’s Leadership Team are tracking these developments and the guidance of the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. As we consider the options before us and do our best to anticipate patterns of transmission, the PLT is considering student and employee well-being, our commitment to students’ education, and questions of logistics. We are working to provide you guidance in a timely way in advance of the spring break.

While no one would wish to face the possibility of COVID-19 affecting our community, there is no better community with which to face it than ours. We are smart, creative, resourceful, and we know our stuff. We have a mission that clarifies what we need to do. Thank you for devoting your innovative and collaborative problem-solving skills to the challenge that we all face.

Strategies for Addressing Critical Functions: Identifying and supporting back-ups
Associate Deans and directors in your areas are working to identify how to cover critical functions in the case that students, staff or faculty members become ill or must work/teach remotely.

  • Continue to explore options for people filling in for others and review the documentation needed for people to step in, and is it located where others can find it and is it up-to-date?

In the absence of travel restrictions imposed by federal or state authorities, please exercise good judgement regarding college-related and personal travel and what it means for your own health and potential exposure of others on your return. In deciding whether to travel, keep in mind that even if you do not become ill, if you are exposed you will need to self-quarantine.

  • For those planning to travel:
    • Evolving public health measures could make it difficult to return to campus in a timely way. Bring along items that you may need to teach remotely if you are delayed.
    • Purchase your air tickets no earlier than 2 weeks in advance (air carriers are themselves developing policies in response to rapidly changing situations) and wait to pay registration fees until close to the deadline.
    • Check the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health websites regarding the latest travel guidance before purchasing tickets.
  • In the case of needing to cancel travel:
    • Many airlines are allowing travelers to reschedule their tickets for up to a year from the point of purchase, including for ticket categories that are typically not changeable or refundable. Some carriers are also waiving or refunding change fees. Contact your carrier to see how it can accommodate these changes.
      • Cancelation and change fees will be accepted as IPAT or PDG expenses.
    • Request reimbursement of registration fees.

For teachers and supervisors of students
As much as we can, we need to think about how we can complete courses through either in-class or remote teaching. In addition to being ready to teach online, consider:

  • Your attendance/participation policy. Make sure it does not inadvertently suggest to students that they should attend class if they are ill.
    • Take a couple of minutes at the beginning of your next class to review your attendance/participation policy. If you intend to modify it to better accommodate potential absences in the event of someone becoming ill or being exposed to COVID-19, explain the changes and make sure they appear on your Moodle or other course site
    • The “COVID-19” site has good advice for students, professors and managers on when to stay away from class or work. See the “FAQs
  • Assignments and the amount of the course grade that each comprises. Give thought about how your students can successfully complete their work if classes are disrupted or if the semester must end early.
  • Keep up on all grading.
  • Readiness for the period immediately following spring break, in the event that your travel or that of your students is disrupted, or in the case that you or a few of your students must self-quarantine after exposure to the virus.

The Associate Deans have asked their Faculties to think creatively about alternate means of course delivery and organization of courses, labs and studios. To help you consider what you might be able to accomplish by teaching remotely, please consider:

  • The Academic Continuity site developed by the Libraries and IT
  • CILA programming on remote teaching, March 17. Watch for announcements for additional programing on the topic.
  • Walk-in sessions with instructional Technology: starting March 11, an Instructional Technology Specialist will be on-hand at the DiSCO, 3-5 Monday through Friday.

For college-wide updates and guidance, visit St. Olaf’s COVID-19 website, where the Coronavirus Response Team posts information and guidance. Please be sure to continue to address the guidance provided in my March 4 email.

Thank you,