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Westfield State Announces Plan for Safe Fall Opening

Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D., announced today the University’s plans for its Safe Fall 2020 Opening. He wrote in an email to students, faculty, and staff that the upcoming semester will include a blend of on-ground and online academic instruction, as the University welcomes back commuters and residential students. The first day of classes is Sept. 2, 2020.

Torrecilha’s announcement included overall information on enhanced health and safety preparation and protocols; academic learning and teaching modifications; general announcements regarding housing, dining services, and athletics; and the University’s continued contingency planning amid the ongoing uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We anticipate a portion of classes to be delivered in a hybrid fashion, involving both on-ground and online components, while a substantial number of classes will be delivered exclusively online. On-ground classwork will be implemented with proper social distancing and other health and safety precautions,” wrote Torrecilha, who also mentioned the University’s plans to de-densify residential halls to limit the use of shared facilities and common areas.

More specific information on academic schedules and housing will be shared with students in the weeks ahead.

According to Torrecilha, work is underway to modify campus environments—including academic buildings, dining spaces, and residence halls—to support social distancing and uphold health protocols. Should the need arise, the University will designate areas for isolation and quarantining of students who exhibit signs of, or have had, direct exposure to COVID-19.

Cloth masks will be required to be worn by all individuals without prohibitive health conditions and six feet of social distancing, when possible, will be enforced. Hygiene and social distancing protocols will be prominently displayed on signage throughout the campus. Enhanced cleaning protocols and frequency will be implemented this summer and continued throughout the fall semester, with a particular focus on high-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas. Protocols are in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

Torrecilha praised the ongoing work of the Westfield State’s Safe Opening Task Force, Emergency Response Team, and divisional working groups, all of which have been instrumental in contingency planning leading up to today’s announcement. All groups will continue to play a critical role in finalizing finer logistical and operational details.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Westfield State Emergency Response Team’s Coronavirus Management Group has managed continuity in the face of the global pandemic. In addition, the Safe Opening Task Force was convened with representation from all University divisions and unions to review the guidelines, standards, and protocols put forth by CDC, OSHA, and the American College Health Association (ACHA). The task force used these expert sources combined with the guidance and directives of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, the state Department of Higher Education, and state Department of Public Health to present scenarios for the fall opening for the University’s senior leadership to consider.

Administration came to their decision on the fall semester with careful consideration of the following:

  • An ability to provide an environment with proper health and safety precautions;
  • A favorable downward trend of the data related to COVID-19 in Massachusetts;
  • A commitment to provide a high quality, engaging student experience;
  • A capacity to be flexible given the uncertainties related to the pandemic
  • A commitment to ensure continuity

“We continue to appreciate the patience and understanding of students and families as we ensure thoughtful and careful measures to welcome our students back to campus in September. Every decision will be carefully considered and will reflect the University’s top priority—the health and well-being of the Westfield State community,” said Torrecilha.

Following today’s announcement, frequently asked questions, resources, and timely updates will be posted to the Safe Fall 2020 Opening webpage.

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