Chancellor Issues Message Regarding Summer 2021 and Fall 2021
JONESBORO -- Chancellor Kelly Damphousse issued the following message to the entire campus community about plans and preparations for the upcoming Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 semesters.
Dear Red Wolves:
I am pleased to share the news that Arkansas State University is preparing for full, in-person and on-campus activity for the upcoming Summer 2021 sessions and the Fall 2021 semester. In addition to the increased numbers of extracurricular activities, I anticipate we will have the same proportion of in-person classes in Fall 2021 as we had in Fall 2019.
One year ago this month, we began a journey of creating accommodations related to a global pandemic. Our instructors quickly adjusted their course delivery, and with time, we all learned what measures were useful in limiting the spread. Our staff members worked diligently to implement measures to make our campus as safe as possible. Our students followed through by complying with our Return to Learn plan so they could protect their fellow students and our employees. As our daily dashboard shows, our planning, our process, and our cooperative spirit have resulted in very low levels of viral spread on campus this spring.
The declining number of COVID cases on campus (and across the state) has been accompanied by improving therapeutics and the introduction of three vaccines. These changes lead me to be confident that we can resume many of the activities – academic, athletic, and community – that define campus life at A-State this fall. Indeed, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is considering the modifications of some restrictions as early as Maymester and Summer Session.
Plans for Spring 2021
In spite of the improvements we are seeing in COVID-19 infections, we should all recognize that coronavirus and its variants are not going away immediately. I have learned not to predict how this virus will respond. It is too soon to declare victory. We may always have to prepare for its return (or a new viral threat), but the good news is that we now have a workable plan in case there is a resurgence in viral infection. Indeed, one of the most important lessons from COVID-19 has been the importance of being ready to pivot to online course delivery if our ability to offer courses in person is interrupted for any reason (including weather). I do not anticipate that need changing in the years to come.
As you may know, Governor Asa Hutchinson has indicated that he is considering changes to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines, perhaps as early as March 31 (when the current emergency declaration is set to expire). I do not know what those changes will be, but the EOC will definitely take those changes into account as we move toward the end of the semester. But after consultation with our faculty, our plan is to continue through the end of the spring semester with our on-campus mask mandate (which predates the state’s mandate) anywhere that physical distancing is not possible. Our EOC will consider any modifications to our Return to Learn plan using the same inclusive process we used when it was created.
I know we are all eager to resume on-campus events safely, and a very important first step is increasing the numbers of vaccinated Red Wolves. Because the currently available vaccines only have emergency authorization, we are not requiring students or employees to be vaccinated at this time. But I am encouraging everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to get it. I am among the 70% of our full-time faculty members who have been vaccinated (more than half of our full-time staff members have also been vaccinated). We started scheduling students for our three on-campus vaccination clinics yesterday, and I am pleased to see on social media how many of them have already gotten their first dose on their own. As more of our students get vaccinated, we will have greater comfort in relaxing parts of the Return to Learn plan.
Students – as we move forward toward the summer and fall semesters, you may have questions or concerns. I encourage you to reach out to Pack Support, or to your academic advisor, as it relates to your summer and fall class schedule. For our new Red Wolves in the Class of 2025, I also recommend that you check in with your recruiter or our admissions team.
Employees – We are about to enter the “stand-down” phase of our emergency status, where we consider the timing for the safe removal of our emergency protocols. While we have committed to maintaining much of our Return to Learn plan through the end of the Spring 2021 semester, our staff will begin the process of converting non-traditional classroom space back to public spaces. Most of these changes will occur after the conclusion of the spring semester, but planning for that will begin soon. Additional information for staff working remotely will be coming in the next few days.
In closing, I cannot overlook the sacrifices by our entire Red Wolves community related to COVID-19. I am forever in the debt of the students, faculty, and staff who stepped up to limit the impact of the virus at Arkansas State. I have cautiously congratulated everyone for keeping our numbers down, which is a direct product of following the plan we set out. While our mission is not accomplished, we are closer to that than we have been in the past 13 months. Thank you for what you have done.
And now, looking ahead to an in-person and on-campus summer and fall...
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