Chancellor Sends Campus COVID-19 Update
Chancellor Kelly Damphousse issued the following email to the A-State community Monday afternoon, October 12, regarding the university's next steps in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dear Red Wolves:
I want to start this email by thanking all of our faculty, staff, and students for your hard work keeping each other safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have managed the first half of the Fall 2020 semester well by following our Return to Learn guidelines. Our goal has always been to finish the fall semester like we started it. Through your diligence and cooperation, we have avoided the type of wider outbreaks seen on other university campuses. As promised in our original Return to Learn plan, we are now ready to plan for the end of the fall semester, winter break, and the Spring 2021 Semester.
Thanksgiving, Finals, and Commencement
As you may recall, our Return to Learn plan discussed the possibility of transitioning to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break. The plan was written in June, so we had to acknowledge then that we did not know how well our Return to Learn plan would work. Provost Alan Utter met with our college deans this morning, and they have expressed their support for concluding the Fall 2020 semester on campus. This means, unless conditions warrant otherwise, we will take our as-scheduled Thanksgiving break (November 23-27) before returning to campus for the final three weeks of classes and final exams. I encourage any students who have any questions about their final exams to reach out directly to their instructors. We are also planning to hold our Fall 2020 Commencement ceremony in person using the COVID-19 protocols that were used in August.
Spring 2021 on Campus
It is our intention to continue in a predominantly in-person (or hybrid) format for the Spring 2021 Semester, based largely on the experience we have gained through Summer II and Fall. When we created our Return to Learn plan, much of what we were doing was hypothetical. Once we started the fall semester, we quickly learned what worked and what did not. We made adjustments to our procedures, which resulted in our having increased confidence in our ability to successfully teach and learn in person. While we are aware that some other campuses have announced that they are canceling spring break, at this time, we plan to keep with the current Spring 2021 Academic Calendar. That means that classes will begin on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, with Spring Break week from March 20-26, 2021, and final exams finishing up on May 6, 2021. Just as we did for the post-Thanksgiving option, if there is a significant change in the pandemic over the holidays, we will reserve the right to adjust the start of the spring semester and to eliminate Spring Break.
Winter (Session) Is Coming
To assist students who would like to get ahead in their degree progress (or to catch up), A-State is re-instituting its Winter Session. The three-week Winter Session will offer only online courses this year. Be on the lookout for more information about that soon.
COVID on Campus
While I am always optimistic, I am also fully aware that this highly contagious virus could re-gain a foothold at any time. While the number of active cases reported on the university’s dashboard has dropped dramatically over the past few weeks, we need to continue to follow the Return to Learn plan. This is especially the case with the increasing number of cases in northeast Arkansas in general and in Craighead County in particular. COVID-19 is highly contagious and we know that masking, physical distancing, sanitization, and frequent handwashing are key contributors to limit its spread. Let’s not get lulled into complacency by our recent success. As we have said all semester long: if campus infections rise to a level that makes continued operations unsustainable, we will transition to all-online instruction. One of our options early on was to convert to all-online instruction for two-weeks, but at this point in the semester with Thanksgiving break upon us, that is probably impractical. So if it becomes necessary to transition to all-online instruction this fall, it would likely be for the rest of the semester.
As a reminder, if you are sick, please do the right thing and stay away from others. Get tested as soon as possible and, if you test positive, participate in the contact tracing process by answering the phone and telling the tracers with whom you have been in direct contact. If you are placed into quarantine or isolation, stay there until you are released. In addition to COVID-19, other diseases like strep throat and the flu are also highly contagious. Just like wearing masks, getting tested and adhering to the instructions of health care professionals isn’t about you. It is about protecting others. If you are experiencing symptoms, reach out to a medical professional and be sure to complete the self-report form on our COVID-19 website. If you have ANY questions or concerns about the health and safety of our campus, please remember to send a note to PackSupport@AState.edu. While it might seem quicker to email me, it actually slows things down. It is much more efficient to reach out to Pack Support directly.
When we reach this Friday, we will have made it to the official mid-term point of the Fall 2020 Semester. This past week, we completed an extended series of Homecoming events and our first home football game of the season. As I wandered around campus and visited many of the extracurricular events, I was very pleased with the extent to which our faculty, staff, students, and guests were wearing masks, distancing, and at the same time, engaging in great campus spirit. Let’s stay focused and finish Fall 2020 like we started it.
#MaskUp & #WolvesUp,