Westfield State University is advancing its current Curtailment Plan to the next level—moving all academic courses online for the remainder of the semester and beginning a controlled move-out of its residence halls, Nov. 17-22, 2020. University Housing Operations will be closed to the general student population from Nov. 23 until the spring semester begins January 19, 2021.
“Even though enlisting our months-long contingency planning was always a possibility, this was a difficult decision that impacts our full campus community,” said Westfield State University Interim President Roy Saigo, Ph.D. “But, we are at a critical juncture as the health and safety of our campus community is our top priority.”
The University’s decision to move to this phase of Curtailment followed its lessening capacity for isolation and quarantine cases, and a continually increasing need for related staffing and other resources to manage COVID-19-specific and other campus operations. In such a fluid situation, Westfield State University was in close contact with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) as it monitored any need to adjust its Curtailment Plan.
“This pandemic has taught us many things, and especially reminds us of what’s most important,” Dr. Saigo added. “When I arrived at Westfield State my goals were made clear—the most important one is to treat students as if they are our own children. This has been my guiding principle during the many decisions made during the pandemic.”
In late September, Westfield State welcomed approximately 1,300 residential students, as well as commuters, back to campus. The University significantly reduced its on-ground course offerings for the fall semester, delivering a blend of in-person, remote, online, and hybrid courses. In addition to signing off on a revised student code of conduct, students, as well as faculty and staff, are required to comply with a “Protect the Nest” pledge.
The University had previously enacted its Curtailment Plan Nov. 5, following the receipt of test results from its Nov. 2-5 round of COVID-19 asymptomatic/surveillance testing. That phase included canceling on-ground courses and adopting a temporary two-week shelter-in-place order for residential students. Fully remote learning began Nov. 9. The shelter-in-place order will continue in this next phase of Curtailment. Following the completion of the controlled move-out, the level of restricted access on campus will be reassessed.
According to Saigo, the onset of the temporary shelter-in-place order Nov. 5 helped Westfield State to carefully manage and navigate the needs of positive COVID-19 cases, while concurrently meeting the needs of our greater student population. Westfield State worked closely with the City of Westfield’s Health Department and DPH throughout its handling of COVID-19 positive cases. In addition, the University’s contact tracing team has collaborated with the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) to identify, contact, and provide instruction to COVID-19 positive cases and their close contacts.
Saigo explained that the University consulted the expertise of DPH to coordinate the timing of the residence hall closures to take place after all close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases (in addition to roommates and other on-campus close contacts already identified and properly quarantined following DPH guidelines) were notified of their potential exposure to COVID-19 and instructed to quarantine.
“I regret the collective disappointment these changes for the remaining semester bring to all students and their families, as well as to faculty and staff,” he said.
For more information, reference the University’s Frequently Asked Questions on its Safe Fall Opening/COVID-19 website.
Planning teams for Westfield State’s Safe Fall Opening included the Safe Fall Opening Task Force, the Emergency Response Team, and Divisional Working Groups—all collaborating to open the campus in late September for residential students and commuters. In addition, the University partnered with the Broad Institute and On-site Medical Services for its rounds of asymptomatic/surveillance testing required for all residential students and those commuters who had an on-ground presence in the fall semester.