St. Olaf College | COVID-19

August 5, 2020 at 4:58 p.m.

To St. Olaf College faculty and staffFrom Enoch Blazis, Campus Reopening Lead | Vice President – Advancement

Dear Colleagues,

Following up on the All Faculty and Staff Meeting this morning, I sent the following message to students and parents this afternoon.

I am following up on President Anderson’s email from last Friday to provide an update on our plans for reopening campus. The recent course of the pandemic has seen a rise in positive tests and cases across most of the country. Based on these changes and the advice from our healthcare consultants, Bridge Lane Global, as well as insights provided by epidemiologists at the Mayo Clinic, we have modified our plans for students returning and our approach for quarantining campus.

The first day of classes remains the same: Thursday, August 20. If a student’s move-in date falls between August 15 and August 19, their scheduled move-in time slot remains the same. From the time of arrival on campus through September 2, all students who will be participating in fall classes on campus will be required to follow a quarantine.

These new measures for returning and living on campus will ask a lot from everyone in our community, especially students. We know that updating our approach when we are so close to the time that many students and their families will arrive on campus for move-in is not ideal, and some may decide that this approach will not work for them. That is why we will also be increasing the number of online courses and providing an opportunity for students to modify their course selection so that they will have more options and may decide to learn remotely. Additional information concerning the registration change process will be forthcoming in the next few days.

We believe the process below positions students, faculty, and staff for the best chance for a successful start and completion of the fall semester and helps each of us to be a responsible member of the Northfield community.

Here’s an outline of the process we will follow for the quarantine:

  • Students who will be living on campus must arrive no later than 10 p.m. on August 19. We apologize to those impacted by this change, but the evolving circumstances have necessitated getting students in their residences halls so we can limit the need for a longer quarantine. For any student who had planned to arrive later and who cannot change their travel plans or for those residing off campus, Dean Roz will be sending a subsequent email with more guidance for move-in, testing, and quarantining.
  • Upon arrival all students will be tested for COVID-19 within 24 hours. During the time students arrive until all of the students’ test results are received, all students will be required to limit their social interactions and stay in their rooms, only leaving for meals and the use of the bathroom. This period will last until we have received results from all student tests, which we anticipate to happen by about August 24.
  • After August 24, students will be allowed to move about their residence halls and the surrounding outdoor area during the remainder of the quarantine period, which will last through Wednesday, September 2.
  • A second round of COVID-19 baseline testing will be conducted the week of August 24.
  • Classes for all students will be online during the quarantine period (August 20–September 2).
  • There will be no extracurricular activities, such as athletics and music rehearsals, during the quarantine period.
  • In-person classes and activities that are planned for the fall semester will commence on Thursday, September 3, and all campus facilities will open and students will be allowed off campus.
  • During the fall semester, students may not have visitors come to campus. This is an added precaution that we are taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus, and we are updating the Community Standards to reflect this new guideline.
  • We will be publishing a dashboard on the St. Olaf website to report campus testing and case data on a weekly basis. The college will be reviewing and monitoring this data and other indicators to determine when and if we need to move to a remote learning plan.

It is not going to be the start of the academic year that anyone would have chosen, but for the health and safety of our community it is the one that we need. This combination of testing and quarantine for the beginning of the semester creates a clear and equitable way to follow CDC travel quarantine guidance and ensure that we can identify and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Things you can do now to start to prepare for your return to campus:

  • Practice the St. Olaf Community Standards at home.
  • Limit your social contacts to your immediate family.
  • If you can be tested and will receive the results prior to your arrival to campus, we encourage you to do so. We realize that this option will not be available to all our students, but this is a good precautionary measure in addition to our planned two rounds of COVID-19 baseline testing when you arrive on campus. All students must still participate in the on-campus baseline testing.
  • Start monitoring for any symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

Students should look for a follow-up email from Dean Roz with more detailed information for the fall semester and requirements for reporting potential exposure to COVID-19 prior to returning to campus, process for changing class schedules and housing arrangements, as well as the quarantining and testing process for those living off campus or for those who can’t arrive on campus by August 19.  Included in her email will be an invitation for a zoom information session on August 10 where students can ask questions about housing, quarantine, testing, and class schedules.

Our expectation for the next few months is not if we get cases on campus, but when, and we will all need to work together to be nimble, flexible, and supportive of each other through this challenge. Thank you for your willingness to adapt and support the college. Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.

All the best,