I am pleased to report that earlier today the State University System of Florida Board of Governors (BOG) approved FAU’s Re-Opening Plan for the Fall 2020 Semester. It is important to note this plan was formalized with the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as our highest priority. All decisions were governed by the latest health recommendations from the state of Florida and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As you might expect, the report is long and detailed as it covers the many aspects of day-to-day life at FAU. It is a fluid document that can be adapted as the world around us shifts.
An exact timeline of when the university will begin its return to on-campus operations is still to be determined. Nevertheless, we soon will arrange town hall-type discussions so particular aspects of the plan can be addressed in detail by individual divisions and departments. It’s likely you will be contacted by someone in your area with more details.
Many aspects of the traditional campus experience will be markedly different this fall. However, it is FAU’s goal to resume face-to-face courses, student activities, and campus events in a manner appropriate to the current situation and at the appropriate times.
I will touch on a few highlights of our strategies in this message, but I ask all members of the university community to please review the re-opening plan, along with the Health and Safety and Cleaning and Disinfecting plans. You will not only see the scope of our efforts to ensure the safest environment possible, but also better understand what to expect as we move toward the start of the semester.
As you review these documents, we welcome your thoughts and questions via email to FAUCOVID19@fau.edu. All feedback will be shared with applicable departments across our campuses to ensure we make adjustments as necessary.
Remember, the dedicated COVID-19 website remains the best source of FAU-specific information. The Campus Safety page of the site has detailed information about current policies and protocols, health and prevention practices, self-quarantine procedures, university travel, and more. The Guidance and Services page features an “A-Z” listing of items from around the university. New information is added to the pages as we confirm changes in our operations.
Now, let’s get into some of the key aspects of the plan.
Health and Safety
Protect Your Owl Family is the theme of our health and safety efforts. I can’t emphasize this next point enough. Individual actions, such as effective physical distancing, and our testing and contact tracing protocols, will go a long way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses. Remember, if you are feeling unwell, stay home. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, please seek medical attention immediately.
Please wear face coverings in public areas on our campuses. Face coverings are required when in close proximity to others, in restrooms, elevators and classrooms, and when using FAU transportation. Do not overcrowd any of these spaces. Face coverings, which should be kept with you at all times, can be handmade, such as those fashioned from a scarf, bandana, handkerchief or tee-shirt.
Sanitizing wipes will be available in various venues to wipe down surfaces, such as classroom desks, work areas, and in food service locations. As part of our cleaning and sanitizing protocols, it is necessary to wipe down high touch surfaces often, and before each use.
All students, faculty and staff must complete a required online training course to become familiar with our health and safety guidelines. Information about this training will be forthcoming.
We all had to quickly adjust to remote learning in March. For the fall semester, our academic instruction is planned as a combination of remote learning and on-campus classes. FAU will continue to provide a high-quality learning environment for our students, with all needed resources available virtually, and eventually in person if physical distancing can be maintained.
Class schedules will be finalized in early July. Much of the instruction will be fully remote, including any classes with more than 50 students and all graduate-level coursework, unless specially approved. Most on-campus instruction will also rely on classrooms that are equipped to stream or record content for students who cannot attend class meetings in person. Classrooms will operate at no more than 25% capacity. Faculty members and students will follow strict physical distancing protocols in all classrooms and labs, with face coverings required.
All classes will transition to 100% remote instruction following the Thanksgiving break. Our faculty have already been asked to adjust syllabi and class meeting schedules accordingly.
Faculty members are encouraged to avail themselves of the resources on the Keep Teaching website, while students should visit the Keep Learning website if they are struggling with remote learning challenges.
COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing
FAU’s Student Health Services will conduct voluntary and targeted testing, by appointment, for COVID-19 for employees and students. Student Health Services has tested students since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and employee testing will be available later this summer.
Individuals testing positive or with COVID-19 symptoms, along with anyone in close contact with those individuals, will be subject to all isolation and quarantine practices contained in our health and safety plan, and in accordance with current guidelines from the CDC.
All positive cases of COVID-19, even if diagnosed by an outside healthcare provider, must be reported to Student Health Services. Those with symptoms, or those who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, can be tested at Student Health Services.
Individuals will be required to quarantine or isolate at their place of residence and must be medically cleared by Student Health Services prior to returning to campus activities. Housing and Residential Education will work with resident students directly on quarantine and isolation protocols.
Student Health Services can be reached at 561-297-3512 (after hours, please select option 3). Employees should also notify their supervisors if they test positive.
Campus life and residential housing are vital components to the university experience for all students. We will continue to honor housing contracts for the fall and expect our residence halls to be at or near capacity. The Housing and Residential Education office is working on establishing the protocols for on-campus living.
Student Organization events will be limited in attendance and to certain locations that can accommodate groups and physical distancing requirements. The Campus Recreation teams are working toward limited capacities and a reduction in classes while continuing to offer virtual sessions. In addition, Student Government has continued to conduct its business throughout the past few months.
Much like our approach to academic instruction, the return to campus work for faculty and staff will be a hybrid model. FAU’s Department of Human Resources’ Return-to-Campus Plan is being finalized and will be shared when ready. There are a few highlights of that plan I wanted to detail in today’s message.
Employees will need to complete a health screening in Workday, along with the online training about our guidelines, prior to returning to campus. Accommodations can be made for employees that are in the “vulnerable population” or live with someone in that category.
Of course, just one of our many challenges is a phased return of staff in a coordinated process to ensure appropriate physical distancing. We initially will expand staff based on mission-critical operations, the ability to control and manage specific work environments, and the necessity to access on-site resources. Those decisions will be approved and communicated through the appropriate channels.
Physical distancing will continue into the foreseeable future. Units or individuals that can effectively work remotely will likely do so until restrictions are eased for larger gatherings. When employees are instructed to return to on-campus work there are several options that can be considered to reduce population density. These include, remote work, alternating days, and staggered reporting, lunch and departure times.
Whenever possible, employees should continue to avoid in-person meetings, to not gather in conference rooms or kitchen areas, and to remain flexible in adjusting schedules as required to perform university functions.
There is still a hold on non-essential travel unless approved by the president, or appropriate vice president or college dean.
Human Resources recently launched a Talent Share Program that is designed to connect eligible FAU employees affected by a reduction in work with FAU colleges and units that have temporary projects or assignments. Human Resources can be reached by calling 561-297-3076 or by email at email@example.com.
Summer Commencement and University Events
We are developing virtual commencement plans and will communicate more information when it is available. It remains my long-term goal to invite all our spring and summer graduates to return for an in-person ceremony when health and safety guidelines permit.
Finally, a quick note on general campus events. For any event, organizers should plan for physical distancing of at least six feet between people whenever possible and to limit gatherings to 50 or fewer. Events where physical distancing is not possible are prohibited. We hope these restrictions can be eased in the coming weeks and months.
All of the plans I’ve mentioned above are the result of work by the university’s Emergency Operations Team (EOT), which consists of nearly 70 FAU employees representing numerous areas of the university. Several working groups and task forces stemming from the EOT are continuing to meet regularly to adjust our plans and to determine how we will increase operations.
I will continue to share important information and updates throughout the summer. Please monitor your email and the FAU coronavirus website. In the meantime, I wish you all good health.