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  • Current Campus Operations Status: Green, Blended
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  • Safe Return to Campus

    A Plan for Resuming In-Person Instruction & Activities


    The goal of Worcester State’s Safe Return to Campus plan is to protect the health of the campus–and the broader–community, while enabling students to progress toward their educational goals. This plan is a work in progress that may be subject to change as conditions evolve and we receive further guidance from federal and state health officials. Worcester State is eager to welcome students back to campus as safely as possible.

    Updated: April 9, 2021 8:00 a.m.
    Broad Institute: Viral Sequencing Program Update” added

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    Spring 2021 Safe Return Plan


  • A Letter from President Maloney
    Barry Maloney
    Barry M. Maloney,
    President

    Dear Worcester State Community,

    Welcome back to the start of the Spring 2021 semester. As you know, we proactively moved the start of the spring semester, as outlined below, which is consistent with adjustments made at other universities in the Commonwealth. We believe these changes will ensure our ability to safely and successfully complete the spring semester.

    Changes to the Spring 2021 semester

    • Spring semester classes will begin Monday, February 1, 2021;
    • Reading Day on May 4 and Professional Development Day on May 5, 2021 are both cancelled. Classes will be in session on these days/times as regularly scheduled;
    • Spring break is eliminated. No classes will be held on Friday, March 19, 2021;
    • May 10 through May 14 will be finals week, compressed from seven days into five days; and
    • Classes and all learning activities will end on May 14, 2021.

    Covid-19 Testing

    The University will commence testing of all residential and commuter students with an in-person class, studio, or lab, prior to the start of the spring semester. The schedule for this testing will be announced early next month.

    Updates to Spring Semester Calendar

    The updated Spring 2021 calendar is available online. Pertinent dates related to the adjusted Spring 2021 calendar include:

    ActionDate
    Last day to add day coursesFebruary 8, 2021
    Last day to drop day coursesFebruary 16, 2021
    Last day to add/drop evening coursesFebruary 16, 2021
    Last day to withdraw from courses/schoolApril 2, 2021
    Last day to elect Pass/Fail statusApril 9, 2021

    Courses offered through the Division of Graduate & Continuing Education will follow this new academic calendar. This includes all evening/online continuing education and all graduate classes (exclusive of the courses in the 100% online accelerated Education Graduate Programs - AOP).

    The delayed start to the spring semester necessitates shifts to many other aspects of our typical spring semester. Financial Aid refunds, for example, will be disbursed in accordance with the new spring semester start date. Separate communication to students, faculty, and staff will be emailed regularly with additional details. We continue to monitor infection rates, which could necessitate other changes as the semester proceeds. Students should check their email regularly to keep apprised of updates.

    While this Spring opening has uncertainties given the changing trajectory of the coronavirus, we have one significant advantage as we return this winter – we now have a full semester of practical experience and informed practice in keeping our campus community healthy and safe. We expect to apply those lessons as we move forward in 2021.

    We look forward to a day when we can put the coronavirus pandemic and the disruption to our lives behind us. The rollout of vaccines are great news. However, we know that the rollout of mass inoculations will take time. Until we have other directives, I continue to ask that we all exercise health and safety protocols outlined by the CDC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and our local Departments of Public Health. This will certainly help us all to slow the spread of the virus on our campus and in our community.

    As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at presidentsoffice@worceser.edu. Stay healthy and be well!

    Sincerely,

    Barry M. Maloney,
    President

  • Pillars of a Safe Campus Environment


    Mutual Contract of Social Responsibility

    Because Worcester State University cannot guarantee zero cases, nor prevent all community infections, we must expect that every member of the University community will be committed to creating a culture of safety and accountability to maintain a healthy campus. Everyone who comes to campus for classes and work must understand and acknowledge this reality. Every member of the Worcester State community must also acknowledge that they have a responsibility to themselves and their fellow Lancers to do their part to be safe, honor restrictions, follow appropriate public health guidelines, including those from the Centers for Disease Control, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Worcester city Department of Health, and comply with all written University guidance posted or otherwise communicated to the campus community.

    So that we may create a culture of safety and accountability throughout the Worcester State University community, every member of our community is expected to adhere to the following guidelines:

    • Participate in training exercises to learn the required safety practices and navigate the new normal on campus;
    • Self-monitor for and report all COVID-19 symptoms using the CoVerified app; Practice essential personal safety practices, including wearing appropriate face coverings; washing hands frequently ; using sanitizer; abiding by safe social distancing practices; and following all safety instructions and signage;
    • Ensure that all personal belongings and all living, studying, and working spaces are kept clean; and
    • Participate in testing and contact tracing under prescribed protocols designated by the University and public health officials.

    The key pillars to maintaining a safe and healthy campus, and fulfilling our mutual social responsibility to all in the Worcester State community, are articulated below.

  • Social Distancing and Face Coverings/Masks
    • When possible, keep six feet of distance between you and someone else.
    • Individuals will be required to wear face coverings on Worcester State grounds and in Worcester State buildings.
    • Failure to comply will violate the mutual contract of social responsibility.
    • Refusal to comply may result in immediate removal from campus, exclusion from campus, and/or other disciplinary action.
    • Facilities staff, University Police, and other designated employees will have the option to use N95 face masks to be provided by Worcester State.
    • Disposable face masks will be readily available at key distribution centers across campus for individuals who forget face covering. Locations include the Information Desk located in the Student Center and the Office of Residence Life and House located in Sheehan Hall.
    Protective Face Covering/Gear Inventory

    Worcester State has purchased supplies of protective face covering/gear for students and all employees. Supplies include various types of face covering/masks, face shields and gloves.

     

    Building Access & Traffic Flow

    Building Access

    All buildings on campus now have designated entrances and exits, which have been clearly marked. The following document provides diagrams of those designations:

    PDF icon Building Flow Maps (Entrances & Exits)

    Note: in the event of an emergency which requires evacuation of a building, any door may be used as an exit.

    Traffic Flow

    To keep pedestrian traffic as socially distant as possible, please keep to the right in corridors and stairwells.

    Physical Barriers and Guides

    Worcester State installed plexiglass or similar barriers in areas where close contact will occur (e.g., front, public-facing desks, and reception areas).

     

    Hygiene Protocols

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.”

    The University will—

    • Promote handwashing and/or sanitizing, consistent with CDC guidance.
    • Provide employees and students with supplies and standards for sanitizing personal work areas, workstations, desks, lecterns, plexiglass, and similar high-touch surfaces.
    Cleaning and Disinfecting

    The University has—

    • Provided additional equipment for Facilities’ use in daily sanitizing activities.
    • Provided additional materials and disinfecting solutions for employees to use for self-performing sanitizing in both instructional and personal use spaces.
    • Established daily sanitizing protocols for all campus physical spaces.

    Cleaning/Sanitation After Confirmed COVID-19 Case(s)

    Worcester State will follow CDC guidelines on cleaning and sanitation for confirmed cases of COVID-19. The following steps will occur once campus contact tracing efforts have identified affected campus spaces:

    • Campus offices, classrooms, and enclosed common spaces will come offline for at least 24 hours from the time a positive individual last occupied the space(s).
    • Appropriate signage will be placed on exterior offices/classrooms/lab doors alerting the space is closed until further notice. Area is to remain locked for the aforementioned timeframe to begin the cleaning and sanitation process.
    • Normal operations can resume once cleaning and sanitation procedures are complete. Occupants will receive notification when the area is ready for use.
    • Separate cleaning and sanitation protocols have been established for the residence halls and on-campus quarantine and isolation areas. Local public health officials may adjust closing time frames for campus locations on a case-by-case basis.
    Testing and Contact Tracing

    Information About COVID-19 Testing

    Along with many colleges and universities across the commonwealth, Worcester State has contracted with the Broad Institute, a biomedical and genomic research center with a well-utilized COVID-19 diagnostic lab, founded in conjunction with Harvard University and MIT. Broad Institute uses the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test for the active presence of the COVID-19 virus, also known as a “point in time” test. In addition to this testing program, Worcester State will manage the COVID-19 virus daily via self-checks of its campus population of symptoms facilitated by a mobile application (CoVerified), testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine protocols. These measures are in line with guidelines set by local, state, and federal health and higher education officials for campus re-openings.

    As part of the Worcester State University Safe Return to Campus Spring 2021 Plan, and to promote the safety of the Worcester State community, all residential students, as well as commuter students, faculty, and staff will be required to participate in a scheduled COVID-19 surveillance testing program.

    All community members who are part of the required testing groups have begun their testing the last week of January. Commuter students must receive a negative test result prior to coming to campus for the first week of classes and weekly throughout the semester. Results are expected within 24 hours of receipt of test samples at Broad Laboratory in Cambridge. Residential students should plan to test upon arrival to campus and self-quarantine in their bedrooms until they receive a negative result. Residential students are required to complete a second COVID test within 3 to 5 calendar days after the first test and weekly thereafter. Move-in is scheduled to begin on Jan. 28, 2021. Faculty, staff and students also have the option to return to campus with a negative result in hand, from an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test that has been administered within 72 hours prior to arrival. These results must be presented upon arrival to campus at the university's Testing Center.

    Testing Process

    Testing occurs on campus in Wasylean Hall (7 Hills Lounge) at no cost to participants. This Worcester State COVID-19 Testing Center is managed by a full-time staff person with a medical background. Please review the informational pamphlet and video below for more information on the observed self-swab nasal collection process. The test is self-administered, with a trained observer, and takes about three minutes. Results are expected within 24 hours of receipt at the diagnostic center.

    Test Participants (New information for Spring 2021)

    The following members of the Worcester State community are required to participate in the campus surveillance testing program on a weekly basis:

    • All commuter students (undergraduate and graduate) attending in-person class/lab/studio on campus;
    • All students living in the residence halls;
    • Students engaged in on-site fieldwork, practicums, internships, clinical placements, research projects or student teaching;
    • In season varsity athletes;
    • Students participating in club sports;
    • Students working on campus;
    • Students and instructors in the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI);
    • Faculty, staff and 03 contract employees with regular or periodic on-campus responsibilities as notified by Human Resources; and
    • Worcester State community members identified as close contacts or classroom/lab/studio exposures through campus contact tracing efforts.

    Testing frequencies may change based on community testing results and public health trends.

    Testing Center Schedule

    Onboarding Testing Week
    Monday, January 258:00a.m.-4:00p.m.
    Tuesday, January 268:00a.m.-4:00p.m.
    Wednesday, January 276:30a.m.-4:00p.m.
    Thursday, January 288:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Friday, January 299:00a.m.-4:00p.m.

    Academic Calendar-Week One
    Sunday, January 31 1:30p.m.-6:30p.m.
    Monday, February 18:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Tuesday, February 28:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Wednesday, February 36:30a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Thursday, February 48:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Friday, February 58:00a.m.-2:00p.m.

    Academic Calendar-Weeks 2-14 (February 7-May 6)
    Sunday3:00p.m.-7:00p.m.
    Monday8:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Tuesday8:00a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Wednesday6:30a.m.-6:00p.m.
    Thursday8:00a.m.-2:00p.m.

    Academic Calendar-Final Exams Week
    Sunday, May 93:00p.m.-7:00p.m.
    Monday, May 108:00a.m.-4:00p.m.
    Tuesday, May 118:00a.m.-4:00p.m.
    Wednesday, May 126:30a.m.-2:30p.m.
    Thursday, May 138:00a.m.-noon

    The university's Testing Center will close for holidays and weather-related emergencies.

    Test Results

    Test results, both positive and negative, for all testing participants will be provided to each test-taker through the HIPPA-compliant CoVerified app, which ensures the health information is secure.

    Initially the test taker and Worcester State’s Student Health Services (SHS) will have access to the result. If the user's test result is positive, a medical staff member in SHS will reach out to the user to offer support and review next steps, including campus contact tracing. The user may also be required to test again to confirm the positive result. Positive results are disclosed to others as required. For employees, this is Human Resources, and for everyone, the local public health departments and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are notified. Supervisors, colleagues, and members of the Worcester State administration will not have access to health information. Faculty members will receive notification of the positive case in their class/lab/studio. Per federal privacy regulations (HIPPA and FERPA), the names of students who may be identified as positive for COVID-19, and those to be quarantined as close contacts of positive cases, must be kept confidential and cannot be disclosed to faculty or staff.

    Those found to be positive for the virus will be required to isolate in their homes, apartments, or in designated campus housing for at least 10 days, the last three of which must be symptom-free. Prior to returning to campus activities, individuals will need clearance from their local Board of Health.

    The Worcester State Health Services medical staff will work with the Worcester Department of Public Health to identify via contact tracing individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Students, faculty, and staff could be required to quarantine themselves for up to 14 days as directed by public health officials.

    Contact Tracing

    Worcester State’s Contact Tracing Team, in coordination with nurse practitioners in Student Health Services (SHS), will perform all campus contact tracing efforts. The medical staff in SHS will work with individuals who are positive for COVID-19 and develop the initial list of close contacts. The names will be assigned to a Worcester State contact tracer who will reach out to all campus community members identified as close contacts. During the interview, the contact tracer will cover a set of standard questions, review quarantine protocols, offer additional university support and arrange for on campus testing.

    Worcester State will share information concerning contact tracing efforts and case management with the Worcester Department of Public Health and the Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) throughout the semester. A program to reach out to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, and contacts of these individuals. This will help reduce the spread of the disease and ensure the individuals have the support they need to isolate or quarantine. The names of individuals who have tested positive are not released to their contacts.

    Broad Institute: Viral Sequencing Program Update

    The following information about the Broad Institute’s participation in the national variant surveillance program was provided to Worcester State on Wednesday, March 31, 2021:

    Dear testing partners,

    We’re writing with an update on the Broad Institute’s participation in the national variant surveillance program.

    Working with the CDC and state public health authorities, Broad is sequencing a regionally-representative selection of positive COVID-19 samples each week, with a focus on New England and New York.

    As the program gets underway, we are building our sequencing capacity to allow us to examine a larger number of samples -- ultimately several thousand per week.

    Sample selection: Positive samples selected for sequencing are selected from our high-throughput (“V3”) testing workflow, and include tests where the viral load is sufficient for sequencing (Ct<30). In nearly all cases, our contracts with our testing partners already authorize the sequencing of positive results for this public health purpose, and you don’t need to do anything. In a small number of cases, we’ll need to amend a contract or gain additional permission. If this is the case for your site, we’ll reach out in a separate communication.

    Sharing results of variant surveillance: All of the genome sequencing data generated through this process is de-identified (stripped of personal information) and shared with the CDC. When we detect a “variant of concern,” we also alert state public health authorities. Broad does not return variant results back to participants or sites. This information will be relayed through public health officials as appropriate. (In all cases, the participant will have already been notified that they received a positive COVID-19 result through the normal channels. The sequencing results are not part of the clinical test, so this information is not returned directly to sites or patients.)

    Variants and detection: To the best of our knowledge, the PCR test Broad uses is able to detect the presence of all known COVID-19 variants, and we continuously confirm the accuracy of the test as new variants emerge. However, the test alone cannot tell the difference between various strains. This is why the additional step of sequencing a subset of positive samples is needed for variant surveillance.

    Separately, we’re occasionally receiving questions about people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine and test positive at some point later. It’s important to reiterate that the vaccines themselves will not result in a positive test. However, it is possible that people who are vaccinated can still become infected when exposed to the virus, although in many cases the test shows a high Ct, indicating a low viral load. We can provide the Ct count for the test at your request to provide additional information. We always encourage you to reach out to your local health authority with concerns about a fully vaccinated individual who gets a test result with a low Ct (<30 for the viral targets). They will reach out to us directly if they would like the sample analyzed.

    We appreciate your support and interest in this important effort to better understand transmission, identify emerging variants, and improve public health decision-making.

    Best regards,

    Stacey Gabriel and the Broad Testing Team

    Containment

    Healthy Campus

    Mandatory isolation or stay at home for symptomatic individuals (coughing, sneezing, fever, rashes or any symptoms).

    Self-quarantine/Isolation

    Due to the congregate nature of on campus learning, housing, and recreation, Worcester State has established a robust plan for self-quarantine/isolation, and contact tracing. If students or employees receive a positive test, self-quarantine/isolation space on campus will be offered with support provided throughout the quarantine/isolation duration. Off-campus students who choose to remain off campus during their quarantine/isolation will be provided support as needed.

    Residents who are awaiting testing results must quarantine/self-isolate at their permanent off-campus residence, if feasible, or in their assigned space on campus, under the direction of SHS. Out-of-state and international students may require early move-in to complete a two-week quarantine.

    Glossary

    CoVerified: A free app for Android and iPhone. that integrates with the Broad Institute's testing platform, and allows users to monitor symptoms and receive test results. See https://www.coverified.us/.

    Isolation: The physical separation of people who have a contagious disease from people who do not have the disease.

    Quarantine: The physical separation and restriction of movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease, for monitoring for development of illness.

    Surveillance Testing: The monitoring of the current state of the epidemic of COVID-19. At Worcester State, the goal of surveillance testing is to quickly identify when/if the virus is present on campus and to minimize its further spread.

    Close Contact: Criteria for determining whether the contact with an infected individual warrants quarantine, based on proximity, length of time in contact, environment context (e.g., large room, outside), active symptoms of the infected person with whom contact is made.

    Communications

    The Office of Communications and Marketing (also known as MARCOM) will provide timely and accurate information concerning Worcester State University’s updated Safe Return to Campus COVID-19 response plan. MARCOM will disseminate information to undergraduate and graduate students by email, text, or video, and post on Worcester State’s Safe Return website and social media platforms. Campus messages will be sent from the Communications and Marketing email account with additional messages from campus administration including the President’s Office, Provost Office, Student Affairs and Resident’s Life. Students are encouraged to check their Worcester State email account at least once a day to keep apprised of campus updates.

    To keep everyone apprised of the health and safety of the campus community respective to the coronavirus pandemic, weekly campus-wide meetings will take place. The spring 2021 COVID-19 Weekly Briefing will be held each Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. beginning Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. The 30-minute meeting will include the university’s COVID-19 dashboard updates and Q&As. FAQs from each briefing will be posted to the COVID-19 dashboard webpage. An email with a link to the meeting will be sent each Thursday evening and contain the latest dashboard updates.

    In the event of a campus-wide emergency, communication will be disseminated via the RAVE Alert system. Information is located at https://www.worcester.edu/myWSU and clicking on the link for WSU Alert System to the right in the box labeled “Safety Communication.” There is also a link to the Rave Guardian website (http://www.raveguardian.com/ to download the app.

    Archived content from the fall 2020 Safe Return to Campus Plan and the Public Health Information websites will be accessible from the current Safe Return website. The Safe Return to Campus plan Spring 2021 will be updated on to a dedicated website (https://www.worcester.edu/Safe-Return/).

    MARCOM will continue to:

    • Coordinate with each Safe Return team leader to disseminate their content broadly across multiple mediums;
    • Assess the current communication plan, make adjustments and share changes with the campus community;
    • Share student communication with faculty and staff;
    • Tell more stories about our campus community through stories posted on the WSU News feed;
    • Increase of development of pandemic resiliency stories featuring Worcester State’s students, faculty, staff and alumni; and
    • Post relevant updates related to changes in public health or state guidelines as it relates to the university’s plans.

    The Communications team, composed of strategy and production, meets regularly to review several topics and suggestions for awareness including the use of video content, increased distribution of student-written stories, podcasts, faculty, student, alumni and donor stories that promote COVID-19 resiliency, innovation and entrepreneurship.

  • Plans for the University’s Academic Program

    The University’s priority is to provide a safe and equitable teaching and learning environment that will maximize student success in pursuit of their academic goals. This plan anticipates that Worcester State University will utilize a combination of face-to-face, blended, and online course delivery.

  • A Blended Opening

    Worcester State University will open in-person for spring 2021 in accordance with its previously published academic calendar and with as many on-campus learning opportunities available to students as possible.

    Worcester State’s approach to education capitalizes on the faculty-to-student interaction and relationship, and students’ interaction through learning with each other. This has been our cornerstone since 1874 and with the advances to our current learning environment, we continue to explore unique, innovative ways to engage students. Still, this approach must recognize and plan for:

    • The health needs of students, faculty and staff.
    • A recurrence of COVID-19 infections.

    The University’s approach leverages blended and online learning both to de-densify classroom spaces and to accommodate student and faculty health needs as they may arise. In addition, we will be prepared to move academic programming to remote learning modalities, if and when public health developments so dictate.

    Spring 2021 classes will be delivered primarily in a blended format, except for those classes already designated to be delivered fully online. The University’s priority in course format is blended courses with in-person, synchronous sessions.

    Blended courses are offered in one of the following formats:

    • Synchronous delivery, whether partially in-person or streamed with video conferencing technology for students learning remotely; and
    • Asynchronous delivery. Online learning with priority given to blended courses with in-person synchronous sessions.

    With blended classes, between 25 percent and 99 percent of course activities could be completed virtually. Faculty and department chairs, in conjunction with their respective deans, will work together to identify the days when courses will take place on campus to ensure an equitable distribution of the number of in-person classes.

    With regard to students with accommodations approved by the University’s Office of Student Accessibility Services (SAS), a variety of approaches may be taken to ensure equitable learning environments. Such approaches were identified and cataloged last summer, in partnership with SAS.

    For faculty accommodations:

    • Faculty members have the option to teach fully online, with the approval of the department chair and dean, if the instructor is experienced in online education, or as a reasonable accommodation when a qualifying condition is documented and approved through Human Resources.
    • If a fully online teaching schedule is requested via HR, other accommodation methods (such as teaching remotely, wherein class meetings are held using Blackboard) will be offered.
    • Faculty will be expected to teach in distance setting to the same high standards found in a classroom setting. Therefore, faculty will attend workshops or training sessions, or document their prior training, to meet the University’s academic standards in distance environment.
    Campus Operations Status

    The university’s Operations Status Plan will use multiple factors to determine its operational levels. These include, but are not limited to: current positive cases, transmission of the virus on campus, guidance from public health officials, and the ability to manage contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation. A change may occur when internal and/or external factors indicate a pivot to the next level would be in the best interest of the health and safety of the campus community.

    Level One: Safe Return - Blended
    • Classes offered in-person, blended and online
    • Number of positive cases and transmission of the virus are controlled on campus
    • Available capacity of on-campus quarantine and isolation spaces
    • Students, faculty and staff participate in weekly surveillance testing program
    • Massachusetts Phase III Opening
    • Wellness Center and in-person dining open with limited capacity per Massachusetts guidelines
    • Some employees work remotely
     
    • One or more factors indicate a pause or temporary suspension of in-person classes and activities is in the best interest of the community and campus moves to “Level Two: Pause of In-Person Instruction Activities – Cautious”
     
    Level Two: Pause of In-Person Instruction and Activities - Cautious
    • Remote learning with a limited amount of in-person classes
    • Additional surveillance testing of certain campus populations
    • No on-campus student practices or club/organization meetings
    • No visitors on campus
    • Most employees move to remote work
    • A building-wide quarantine may be put in place if multiple cases are reported in a residence hall
     
    • One or more factors show it is safe to return to “Level One: Safe Return - Blended”
    • One or more factors indicate further restrictions are necessary and in consultation with public health officials and campus moves to “Level Three: Limited on Campus - Restricted”
     
    Level Three: Limited on Campus - Restricted
    • All classes move online with few exceptions
    • Virtual activities only
    • Wellness Center closes and dining moves to takeout only options
    • Access to campus buildings limited
    • On-campus students may be required to stay in their rooms with few exceptions
    • No visitors on-campus
    • Employees move to remote with the exception of staff to support on-campus students and continuity of operations
     
    • One or more factors indicate in-person instruction and activities are no longer in the best interest of the health and safety of the Worcester State community and in consultation with local and state officials campus moves to “Level Four: Severely Limited - High Alert”
     
    Level Four: Severely Limited - High Alert
    • All classes online
    • Fully remote operations
    • Only staff as identified by Human Resources on campus
    • A phased move out of the residence halls with limited exceptions
     

    Note: The campus is planning for a return to a more traditional Fall 2021 semester as wide-spread vaccination continues across the Commonwealth and neighboring states.

    Equity and Access to Learning

    While balancing campus safety and the goal of maximizing student success, it is vital that equity be a top priority, and that University continue to address issues of access as they may affect students with limited or no internet access.

    Recognizing that the pandemic and its economic costs have disproportionately affected people of color, the University will:

    • Consider how blended/online teaching modalities produce new kinds of inequities in access to digital technologies and off-campus learning environments.
    • Commit resources to addressing those inequities. Digital and home-learning inequities during the ongoing pandemic represent an important retention concern for the institution, and a community imperative as an anchor of Worcester’s social fabric.
    • Identify necessary resources, including:
      • Laptops for students who do not have them;
      • WiFi hotspots for those without internet access; and
      • Access to funding for any/all individual software needs that may arise as part of participating in blended and/or online courses.
      • Laptops are available to loan to students who need one to support their academic success. Students should apply for support from the Student Emergency Fund.
       
    • Carefully calibrate eligibility for the Student Emergency Fund, or other newly identified funding, including in consideration of full-time or part-time status, financial aid status, etc.
  • Technology


  • University Learning Management System

    To promote students’ ease of learning online and to assist the University in maintaining compliance with applicable policy, procedures, and law, the University restates that Blackboard is its official Learning Management Software (LMS), supported by IT Services. Consequently, instructors of blended or online classes are strongly encouraged to utilize Blackboard as a course’s central LMS. This will ensure that faculty members have the support they need, that IT can safeguard the privacy of the platform, and that students are positioned to succeed in online learning. While it is not obligatory that instructors utilize an LMS in their face-to-face courses, it is encouraged that an up-to-date syllabus be provided on Blackboard at a minimum. Ongoing Blackboard training is available for faculty.

    Student Technology Considerations

    While the use of a standard LMS is one component of an equitable blended/online learning plan for optimizing student learning, the University understands that several additional considerations must also be kept in mind, notably that students must have access to suitable laptop computers and high-speed internet as essential to completing blended, online, and remote coursework. For spring 2021, Worcester State University has recommitted to its laptop requirement. Further, the University will support and assist students with internet access, both on campus and at their homes, where access is limited or not available.

    Space Planning

    In order to promote social distancing, Worcester State will limit the number of individuals in classrooms, offices, and buildings, as well as students assigned to residence halls and bathrooms. Capacity limits were determined using a formula that took into account the current occupancy and the recommended social distance per person. To this end, our facilities department has:

    • Determined occupancy limits indicated with designated signage for:
      • All academic instructional and specialized instructional space.
      • All non-academic spaces.
      • Previously assigned communal spaces such as lounges, conference rooms, and convenience areas.
      • Elevator cabs.
    • Evaluated pedestrian pathways for density, and affixed floor markings and signage.
    • Upgraded HVAC systems to allow continuous air flow. All systems have been upgraded with MERV 13 rated filters.

    New occupancy limits in each classroom and common areas have been posted and all students, faculty, and staff will be expected to respect those limits for the health and safety of our community.

  • First-Year Student Services


  • “Becoming a Lancer”

    As an extension of the Academic Advising support that was established last summer, the relationship between first-year students and the Academic Success Center continues throughout the academic year. During their first semester at Worcester State, first-year students remain connected with their assigned academic advisor in the ASC. Each week, this academic advisor sends emails with dates, deadlines and information that is crucial for each first-year student to know and understand as they begin their college career. Specifically, to prepare for advising and registration for the spring semester, the ASC has hosted workshops to explain how to choose classes and register online. In addition, ASC academic advisors have reviewed fall grades along with the spring schedule to determine if first-year students are enrolled in the correct courses to be successful in their major and stay on track for graduation. Academic advisors will reach out to students and make suggestions for the schedule based on the outcome of the fall semester, and plans to do so again this spring for fall 2021.

    In an effort to academically connect students with one another, the Academic Success Center established a new academic support program called Peer 2 Peer (P2P). Developed for students enrolled in online and blended courses where there may be less interaction with the instructor and fellow classmates, the program creates a structure to connect students with one another to review assignments, projects, and to study for exams. Peer 2 Peer matches students in small groups of 2-4 individuals who are in the same course and looking to meet in-person or remotely for study sessions or overall academic support. Once a match is made, the ASC notifies students of next steps, which include a review of Safe Return guidelines, options and resources to meet on campus or Zoom, and an overview of the Academic Integrity policy at Worcester State.

    Link Icon Request Peer 2 Peer support

    Already existing academic support programs such as the Writing Center, Math Center and Spanish Clinic are available remotely and provide an updated set of procedures at each of their sites.

    Link Icon Math Center
    Link Icon Spanish Clinic
    Link Icon Writing Center

  • The Student Experience


  • Residence Life

    Residence Life will model small communities or “households,” which are key components of our plan for living on campus. A household may consist of just one student in a single room, two students in a double room, or suitemates, or it may include others on one floor who share a common bathroom. Whatever the household’s makeup, students living in these defined spaces will be expected to live together in new ways. They must exercise careful control of how shared spaces are used and maintained, and everything from bathroom use to household cleaning to shared elevator use must be scheduled and coordinated. Students on floors with common bathrooms will be given daily schedules for bathroom use that will limit the number of students in a common bathroom at one time. Common bathrooms will receive frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces by our facilities staff, and each bathroom in apartments and suites will receive a starter kit of disinfecting products for students to wipe down surfaces before and after use.

    Residence hall bed counts have been carefully reviewed and adjusted to reduce density. Some returning students may be impacted by the adjustment to the density of on-campus housing.

    Students living in apartments and suites with in-unit bathrooms typically arrange bathroom schedules to manage individual use, and this fall will be no different. Upon arrival, apartment and suite “households” will be asked to support each other and develop bathroom use and cleaning schedules.

    The University has set aside student housing that will serve as quarantine and isolation accommodations for residential students. Residential students required to stay in one of these spaces will be supported with meals delivered by on-campus dining services and daily health monitoring by Student Health Services.

    Food Service

    Worcester State’s food service vendor, Chartwells, has developed a COVID-19 specific and customized plan called Path to Open based on CDC, local and state guidelines. Plans include:

    • Reduced or eliminated guest seating capacity based on social distancing guidelines in all locations. Sheehan main dining hall will be reduced from 620 to 208 seats for in-person dining;
    • Installation of plexiglass at all dining locations;
    • Signage indicating customer pathways and floor queuing decals, as needed;
    • Online/remote ordering to allow customers to place a to-go order ahead of time;
    • Option for grab-and-go items at food service locations;
    • Establishment, with Residence Life, of household dining times;
    • A designated COVID-19 food safety manager;
    • Delivery process for residential students in isolation or quarantine;
    • Contactless catering and check in process; and
    • Enhanced safety protocols for food services employees, dining locations, and guests (if permitted).
    • Outside guests will not be permitted to dine in the dining hall.
    Library Services

    The Library has adjusted in-person and remote services in conjunction with the University's Safe Return to Campus Spring 2021 Plan. The Library, as well as the Learning Resource Center building, is open to current students, faculty, and staff only. A valid OneCard ID will be required to access the building during regular hours of operation, which are Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. See the Library's Safe Return to Campus guide for an up-to-date summary of Library services.

    Learning Location Spaces

    To provide students with quiet and safe study spaces during this unique semester, Worcester State University has designated two spaces on campus as Learning Locations:

    1. The Lancer Landing room in the Student Center, Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    2. Room L-236 in the Learning Resource Center, Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    These spaces will provide a space for students to complete coursework and/or participate in online classes. Other quiet and safe spaces exist in other locations on-campus. The aforementioned spaces are purposefully provided for course and/or study purposes.

    Athletics

    No formal decision has been announced regarding formal competitive activities for the spring. Small group practices and conditioning activities may be held based upon public health guidelines and training requirements of individual coaches. Updated information with regard to team activities will be provided through the Athletics Department.

     

    Health Monitoring

    Student Health Services Department (SHS)

    As the primary source of medical care for students on campus, Student Health Services has prepared a detailed report on what is required for a safe return to this campus. This includes a list of necessary supplies, staffing, and physical considerations of current office space. The report also includes recommendations for isolation and quarantine spaces as outlined by the American College Health Association. SHS is benefited by having a long-term director and a strong relationship with the Worcester Department of Public Health.

    SHS will be the primary contact for the receipt and dissemination of information related to a reported COVID-19 positive cases on campus. SHS will follow established protocols and guidelines for contact tracing, testing, and reporting, and will work with the Office of Communications and Marketing should information need to be shared with the campus community.

    Student Wellbeing and Mental Health

    The University has a long-standing commitment to the wellbeing and mental health of its students. This has included being a JED campus, through which Worcester State has enhanced its mental health outreach, programs, and protocols; and established a Worcester State JED team.

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University and its Counseling Services have emphasized several elements of its JED strategic plan to meet the diverse mental health needs of our students during these times, and to ensure a culture of care relative to mental health and wellbeing campus wide. This focus serves to increase help-seeking behaviors, access to care, supporting students in transition, social connectedness, gatekeeper training, and aid with identifying students at risk.

    Training

    The University increased mental health and wellbeing gatekeeper training through educating its faculty, staff, and students in recognizing, responding, and referring students in distress. These trainings include Resident Assistants (who live in the residence halls) as well as members of the athletic department coaching staff and trainers. These trainings, facilitated by counseling center staff with a trauma informed focus, are informed by data specific to the Worcester State student population and nationally. The training will further focus on understanding referral protocols for both emergent and non-emergent scenarios.

    First-Year Student Support

    First-year students will continue to be supported in their transition to Worcester State in a number of ways. EVERFI Mental Health and Diversity and Inclusion modules have been added to the already existing AlcoholEDU, sexual violence, and prescription drug pre-matriculation programs. These online programs were introduced sequentially to first year students beginning last August. Virtual new student and parent orientation programs will include an increased presence of information relating to transition, self-care, and information on how to access campus mental health resources and supports. These programs will also serve to connect students in an effort to develop a sense of community and belonging in these difficult times.

    Outreach Efforts

    Counseling Services will continue mental health outreach efforts to both new and returning students. In an effort to meet the diverse needs of our students, Counseling Services will offer individual counseling sessions via telehealth and some safe in-person sessions. In collaboration with the Office of Communication and Marketing, Worcester State is developing a wellness hub website which will soon be launched. All wellness-related resources will be housed on this page. This will assist the University in communicating to both internal and external community members Worcester State’s commitment to holistic education and wellbeing.

  • Campus Restrictions


  • Remote Work

    Worcester State University Policy on Remote Work

    • Human Resources will extend the opportunity for staff to telework whenever possible.
    • All meetings will continue to be held remotely until further notice.
    Restricted Visitor Access

    Residence Hall visiting rules have been restructured: In all campus residences, access to rooms and living spaces is limited to on-campus residents only, at all times. Overnight guests will not be permitted. This plan may be subject to change as conditions evolve and the University receives further guidance from federal and state health officials.

    Other visitors: Vendors and other guests are expected to adhere to the university's mutual contract of social responsibility. This includes wearing face coverings at all times, and monitoring symptoms prior to visiting campus.

    Please make arrangements with the office you will be visiting prior to arriving on campus.

    Non-essential, in-person visits are discouraged.

    Wellness Center

    For the Spring 2021 semester, access to the Wellness Center is limited to students and certain individuals who are associated with activities approved by the Campus Usage Committee. Students are prohibited from sponsoring a guest in the Wellness Center or its fitness facilities.

    A detailed operations plan outlines the daily cleaning procedures and safety protocols for employees and students. Wellness Center staff will continue to offer a blended approach, with virtual and in-person programs and services. The virtual classes are open to any member of the Worcester State community.

    Campus Events

    One of the many changes implemented to address the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students is creation of the Campus Usage Committee.

    Scope and Objective

    The Campus Usage Committee will evaluate all space requests and event proposals which include or involve external participants (defined as individuals who are not current Worcester State faculty, staff, or students), provided the space request or event proposal is scheduled to occur on property owned or operated by Worcester State University.

    These requests may originate from external parties seeking to utilize Worcester State facilities (e.g., external conferences or sports camp), or internal departments who plan to interact with external participants on campus. Please note, there are several types of event proposals/space requests that the Campus Usage Committee is not required to review. Examples include:

    • Department return to campus plans (unless the department plans include the involvement of external participants);
    • Construction/external contractor projects;
    • Space or event requests involving Worcester State faculty, staff, or students only (either on or off campus); and
    • Research projects involving Worcester State faculty, staff, or students only.

    The primary objective of the Campus Usage Committee is to ensure event plans are in compliance with current health and safety guidance from the State of Massachusetts, event plans are in compliance with the Worcester State Safe Return to Campus plan, and the proposed event does not pose an unnecessary health or safety risk to Worcester State faculty, staff, students, or event participants.

    For additional information regarding event planning and reserving physical space for an event, please visit the Conference & Event Services pages.

    Process

    If you have an event proposal/space request, please:

    • Complete the event proposal template
    • Ensure the proposal form is formally reviewed and approved by the division head. Please note, formal approval is obtained via a physical wet signature on the form (scanned), or email trail showing review and approval by the division head.
    • Ensure the approved proposal is submitted to Jonathan Walker. (jwalker@worcester.edu), at least 10 days prior to the start date of the event.
    • The proposal will be evaluated by the Campus Usage Committee. Please note, the Campus Usage Committee may request additional information regarding the proposal.
    • The Campus Usage Committee will notify the proposer and division head of the results of the evaluation. If approved, the Campus Usage Committee will also notify key campus offices of the upcoming approved event.
    • The chair of the Campus Usage Committee will provide a summary of events to the Cabinet.

    The Committee

    Adrian Gage, Assistant Dean, Residence Life and Housing
    Tara Hancock, Executive Director, Alumni
    Mike McKenna, Director, Conference and Event Services
    Amie Hamel, Facilities
    Hilda Ramirez, Executive Director, Latino Education Institute
    Jonathan Walker, Director, Internal Controls and Risk Assessment

    Questions should be directed to Jonathan Walker (jwalker@worcester.edu)

    Limit non-essential travel

    In light of health and safety concerns, and to aid with cost containment, the University has suspended all travel, both in- and out-of-state, through the academic year, 2020-2021. This includes the suspension of all international travel, including planned study abroad programming.

    There will be very limited exceptions made to meet University operating requirements. Exceptions require preparation of a detailed travel plan subject to review by the administration to determine if it is appropriate and necessary.

    Shuttle to Goddard Lot and Sagamore Road Studios

    The shuttle will not run between Goddard Lot and the University for the spring semester. The shuttle will run between campus and the Sagamore Road Studios.

     

    Limited Access to Communal Social Spaces

    To comply with social distancing guidelines, all shared communal spaces on campus will be closed or have reduced density. Use of pool tables, gaming consoles, and other areas within the residence halls and Student Center will likely not be available for use in the spring. Gatherings in lounges and other informal spaces may be limited to no more than 10 people, and some even less, based on square footage. Signs will be posted at the entrance of each communal space and it will be expected that students maintain physical distancing at all times and wear a face covering over the nose, mouth, and chin. Furniture will be marked to identify where people can sit to comply with social distancing guidelines. Additionally, conference rooms not otherwise converted to instructional space will either be closed to use or be restricted to meet social distancing guidelines. All such spaces will be signed with applicable limitations.

    Mandatory Training and Compliance

    Human Resources will provide instructions for mandatory training on health and safety, and new campus protocols before employees return to campus. Training will be personalized to include our student leaders and human resources personnel reviewing content and/or narrating material. Essential health and safety content will include:

    • Face coverings
    • Frequent hand washing and sanitizing
    • Social distancing/elevator occupancy
    • Safe Return to Campus website for reference
    • Campus cleaning protocols
    • What to do if you get sick
    • Upon Return to Campus – what to do
    • Importance of mutual shared responsibility
  • Public Health Information

    While the focus of efforts has turned to a safe return to on-campus instruction and activities in accordance with our plan, we will continue to provide public health information related to the pandemic to our community.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    The Safe Return to Campus Spring 2021 plan is responsive to both state and federal guidelines. Frequently Asked Questions will be collected, updated and expanded upon on an ongoing basis, and will provide information to all constituents of our community - students, faculty, and staff.

    Note: As we compile responses to add to FAQs, please direct questions you may have to safereturn@worcester.edu. We will identify common areas of inquiry and use them to provide answers here.