For The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The fall semester for St. Ambrose University will begin in-person and a week earlier than originally scheduled, Aug. 17, and conclude earlier, on Nov. 24.
“A great deal of time, thought and research — including consultation with public health officials and medical experts — went into this decision,” St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ said. “A task force consisting of St. Ambrose faculty and staff with specific expertise, including public health knowledge, researched numerous options ranging from a return to campus to a resumption of the distance-learning model we adopted part way through the spring.”
Current understanding of the COVID-19 threat and the ways institutions can safely resume operations while working to minimize risk of infection factored into the university’s decision. The modified fall schedule will allow closure of classrooms and residence halls Nov. 25 through mid-January, a time when some health experts predict a potential “second wave” of the coronavirus.
“This revised calendar also allows us to maximize face-to-face classes and ensure we are meeting the critical learning needs of our students,” she said. The university will also introduce a revised course schedule that will help to ensure social distancing. This may require classes to operate using a hybrid model that maximizes face-to-face interactions, with some material delivered online. “We are confident this is the best course of action for St. Ambrose University to serve our students well,” Sister Lescinski said.
In surveys that the Fall 2020 Task force conducted among St. Ambrose constituencies, students and their families expressed a clear preference for a return to focused, face-to-face classroom learning.
St. Ambrose will continue to follow safety recommendations outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and regional health officials. This includes requirements for social distancing and the use of masks (and additional protective equipment as appropriate) in group gatherings.
Daily health self-monitoring through an online app will be required of students and employees. Testing and contact tracing of potentially COVID-19-infected students and employees would follow, if recommended by partnering health professionals.
Students and university employees will also adhere to a set of behavioral expectations. “We anticipate our residence halls will open at nearly full capacity with new cleaning and disinfecting practices and protocols in place. Move-in dates for fall athletes and other students will be announced shortly,” Sister Lescinski said.
Varsity athletics will resume practices in mid-August following guidelines and schedule reductions recommended last week by the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics. Extracurricular events and activities will be evaluated and approved on a case-by-case basis and will require strict procedures to ensure safe practices.
“Much remains to be determined as we work toward opening this fall with the full understanding that conditions could rapidly change and may require revised plans,” she said. “The cabinet and I have commissioned an Implementation Team which will be working on additional details throughout the summer. Further details of protocols and requirements will be found along with answers to frequently asked questions at www.sau.edu/fall2020.”
The university will provide additional details on the process of returning to campus through a series of online forums for students, faculty and staff later this month. “We also commit to regular updates on plans and details as they become available,” Sister Lescinski noted.
“We know these past several months have been a challenge for our entire campus community and for those we will welcome to our campus in August. We are blessed to have such a wonderful, conscientious and committed university community. We look forward to a new beginning in August.”
For more information on changes, visit the schools FAQ section at http://www.sau.edu/covid19