Renaissance: Reopening Trinity in Fall 2021

Renaissance: Reopening Trinity in Fall 2021

Spring is coming… a true Renaissance in bloom as Trinity plans Fall 2021 campus reopening!

Dear students and colleagues,

One year ago on this very day, March 12, I wrote to you about a sudden and urgent change in our campus way of life; the World Health Organization had just declared the spread of coronavirus to be a pandemic, and along with all other schools, colleges and universities and businesses, we decided to close the campus and move into remote instruction.  We thought that would last for about two weeks; that was 52 weeks ago.  Across those long days, we learned how to be present to each other in new ways; we had classes on zoom and conducted online graduations and welcomed the Class of 2024 virtually.  We wore masks and practiced social distancing, but still, we lost too many members of our families and so many friends; nationwide, the nation suffered more than 500,000 deaths and millions of illnesses.  We remember all those who have died, and we pray for the families who have suffered so much across these long months of illness and sorrow.

Now, hope is on the way!!  Our long year of pandemic isolation and quarantine will soon be over.  A true Renaissance is coming! Thanks to the vaccine and ongoing public health efforts to reduce the incidence of disease and lessen the likelihood of transmission — and with special thanks to the heroic scientists, doctors, nurses and public health professionals who have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic — we can look forward to the day when “normal” life can resume!  In his address to the nation last night, President Biden spelled out his plans to ensure that all adults get vaccinated by May 1, that we can celebrate with families by July 4, that we can pick up the threads of community interaction and move on from this year of crisis and hardship.  But as the president said, it takes all of us!  Every single person has an important role to play — getting vaccinated, continuing to mask-up, observing all public health guidance so that we can reopen safely.

Accordingly, it is with great pleasure that I want to tell you that we are working on the plan for Trinity’s own Renaissance — a return to some on-campus classes and activities for the Fall 2021 semester.  This plan is in development, and will require approval from the D.C. government.  But below is the outline of the plan, with the understanding that much will continue to evolve in the next several months.  As we did previously, I invite your comments and suggestions, and I will be putting out a campus survey shortly to gather your input as well.

We consider Fall 2021 to be a time of transition back to campus-based instruction and activities, so our planning is moving in phases.  We firmly believe that we can do so with the goals of safety and good health for all as the top priorities, along with the need to ensure instructional integrity.  We are evaluating the capacity of our staff to manage face-to-face activities safely, as well as the capacity of our facilities to permit continuing social distancing throughout.  For that reason, we will not “reopen” all at once, but rather, on a phased plan that enables us to assess the success or risks with each step and make adjustments accordingly.

We assume that the city will continue to have rules about density and social distancing, that masks will still be required, and that some kinds of activities (e.g., sports) will need special approval.

We also assume that most members of the campus community will get the vaccine by the fall.  While we understand that some portion of the community will not get vaccinated, most will; we urge everyone to do so.

With those parameters and assumptions, our planning right now focuses on these key points:

  1. Our goal is to have daytime undergraduate classes in the College of Arts & Sciences and School of Nursing and Health Professions back on campus in Fall 2021.  Will this be every course in CAS and NHP?  Possibly a few will remain in hybrid or online formats as we develop the plan, but our goal is to have the majority of CAS and NHP undergraduate courses in-person in the fall semester.  Classes on campus will be low density according to the rules the city establishes.  Masks and sanitation protocols will be enforced.
  1. We may well also have some undergraduate courses in the School of Professional Studies on campus in the fall.  We are evaluating the courses and schedules to determine when and how this might work.  Some SPS courses will continue online during the fall semester.  We also need to evaluate the status of classes at THEARC and whether/when we can resume in that location.
  1. Graduate courses will remain online in Fall 2021, except for those with laboratory components.  We are evaluating which graduate programs are likely to remain online permanently.
  1. All classes in Summer 2021 sessions will remain online.
  1. Residence halls will continue to house one student per room.
  1. We are considering whether and how athletics may resume; the plan for sports has many dimensions that we must consider for safety, so this will continue to evolve.
  1. Large group activities are a question mark (e.g., in-person orientations, convocation, etc.) and will depend on the city’s rules about size limits for gatherings.
  1. Staff will continue in blended schedules of rotational days on campus and some days online, with the goal of having all offices open each day but also allowing staff greater flexibility for their hours on campus or online.  This will require a great deal of cooperation among staff and supervisors to work out the right plan to ensure continuing service to students and faculty while also respecting the value of some flexibility in the staffing patterns.
  1. We will work out a protocol for students, faculty and staff who are unable to return to campus.  This year we have left it wide open according to each individual’s choice.  To make it work for a real reopening of the campus, we will need to move from personal preference to a protocol that evaluates the need for a reasonable accommodation.
  1. We will need to evaluate the circumstances of internships and whether in-person internships have sufficient safety to permit our students to participate.  Programs that have clinical requirements are already engaged with this issue.

We know that there are many other issues that will surface as we engage this process.  If you have a topic or an idea, please send it to me and we will add that to our planning considerations.

The biggest challenge we faced this time last year was how we would ever manage to “pivot” from face-to-face to online teaching and learning.  Look what you did!!  You pivoted quickly and well, with some bumps along the way but in general Trinity’s students, faculty and staff were heroic, and you deserve congratulations and thanks.  Now, it’s time to “pivot” once more, and we surely can do that with the same verve and excellence.  We will do it thoughtfully.  There is no “return to the past” in this effort, but rather, moving forward with all that we have learned, and reuniting on our beautiful campus to enjoy the best of Trinity, which is our community together teaching, learning and making progress each day.

I’ll be communicating much more about all of this, and thanks for your input as well.

With thanks to all for your heroic efforts during our pandemic year, and with continuing concern for your health and safety,

President Pat McGuire

Looking forward to the day when we can all cheer for the Trinity Tigers out on the soccer field!!