As we wrap up the fall semester, I write to share important notes as you plan for the Spring 2021 semester. We continue to look at data and modify our approach for the spring semester. Some improvements include further de-densification of the residence halls, weekly asymptomatic/surveillance COVID-19 testing, and more comprehensive promotion of our public health protocols.
Spring 2021 Academic Calendar: Classes Begin Jan. 25
As we continue to receive guidance from the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Higher Education, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, forecasts indicate a second wave of COVID-19 cases to come following the week of Dec. 25, 2020 to January 1, 2021, comparable to what Massachusetts and the country is experiencing now after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Academic Policies Committee and the All University Committee last week approved a modified academic calendar for the Spring 2021 semester, with classes beginning Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.
In addition to a one-week delay in the start of classes, Spring Break (March 8-12, 2021) will be cancelled. However, there will be a Mental Health Day on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. We realize this is disappointing to many and we apologize for the need to eliminate a much anticipated break for students, faculty, and staff each spring. However, this decision was made in the best interest for the safety of the campus community.
In addition to this shift, the first week of classes (Jan. 25–29, 2021) will be held remotely only, as the University receives its first round of results from surveillance/asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, isolates any positive students, and conducts contact tracing that week. All courses will resume, delivered through their determined modality, on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.
Residential students will move into the halls on designated days and times on the weekend of Jan. 23 & 24, 2021.
Housing & Dining for Spring 2021
Due to further de-densification of residential living on campus, all available bedrooms will be singles. This means that only one student will be permitted to live in rooms in the traditional halls (Lammers, Davis, and Dickinson), while only two or three students will be permitted in the multi-bedroom suite and apartment style units in New and University Halls. This week, Housing selection took place for eligible students—those with at least one on-ground or hybrid course and those experiencing housing insecurity. We have developed a Housing Waiting List, giving priority to students with internships, student teaching, or other academic requirements in the Westfield area, in addition to in-season athletes. Although this does not allow us to accommodate all who prefer to live on campus, we ask for your understanding and flexibility as we work through another atypical semester at Westfield State.
In addition to de-densification of residential halls, all students who will live on campus will be required to have a meal plan. To further support our efforts to keep students on campus and limit activity to and from campus, Dining Services is going to be offering three different theme restaurants for delivery to your room or pick up in TJ Bistro via the Get App. Be on the lookout for more information on partnerships with local community businesses to deliver to campus in partnership with Dining.
Spring 2021 Bills due Dec. 18
To keep consistent with the University’s billing cycle, Spring 2021 bills were mailed prior to the Thanksgiving Recess. You will note that the deadline for the spring bills is next Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. Although the deadline to opt out of Housing has been adjusted to Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, the Spring 2021 billing deadline remains as Dec. 18. To provide further flexibility for you and your families who are considering housing for the spring semester, Student Accounts recommends taking advantage of the installment payment plan. For more information on the installment plan, click here. Should you have any questions regarding your bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ll note your bill contains a student activity fee, a technology fee, and a general fee, which I’ll explain.
The student activity fee is used by Student Government Association and Office to support SGA activities and those of student clubs throughout the academic year. While in person programming has been limited this semester, funding has been spent on virtual programming, which will continue in the spring semester. Of course we will also plan in-person programming as we are able and in accordance with the Massachusetts gathering guidelines. We encourage all students, both on and off campus, to watch their emails for upcoming programs. An occasional BINGO night, or video game tournament is a great way to stay connected with the community while we are spread across the state and country.
The technology fee supports the campus’s technology infrastructure, additional Zoom licenses, broadband internet access, network costs to run the University’s systems, etc. Those expenses increased to facilitate a primarily remote learning environment. Most of the technology fee provides support outside of the residential environment, which is why all students are charged the fee, commuter or residential.
The general fee covers campus operations for staff, faculty, utilities, etc. While the campus has reduced its residential operations, it remains open and operational. The general fee enables the University to maintain faculty and staff expenses to provide instructional services and support to students, whether in-person or remotely.
COVID-19 Testing Requirements
Next semester, we will provide more frequent testing of individuals who will have an on-ground campus presence. Westfield State will test residential students, commuters, and faculty and staff weekly. In addition, we will follow similar isolation and quarantine protocols, using Lansdowne Place as our primary facility to isolate positive COVID-19 cases and quarantine symptomatic close contacts. The apartment complex will be used if overflow isolation/quarantine space becomes necessary.
In addition to weekly testing, residential students will be required to provide proof of a negative molecular PCR result of a COVID-19 test administered between January 17 and 23, 2021, prior to gaining access to residence halls and academic buildings on campus for the Spring 2021 semester.
In addition to weekly testing next semester, symptomatic testing will once again be available through University Health Services. A specific schedule for the surveillance/asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, as well as a series of Spring 2021 FAQs, will be posted to the Safe Opening webpage in the weeks ahead.
Continued Curtailment Planning
As the condition of the Coronavirus pandemic remains fluid, we will be prepared to shift to additional remote-only periods, if needed. We are currently finalizing various thresholds for isolated curtailments or overall campus curtailment.
Know that all students, as well as all faculty and staff, play a part in keeping our community safe. In addition to our Housing and Dining plan for spring, we are encouraging students to remain on campus as much as possible. We will have a virtual job fair for students who would like an on-campus job and, as mentioned, we are currently in conversations with local community businesses to deliver to campus in partnership with Dining Services.
The ultimate goal is to keep students on campus as much as possible to better support our public health responsibility to mitigate the spread of the virus. While accomplishing this, we are equally committed to preserving a meaningful and engaging experience for all of our Owls.
Additional measures will be put in place to more broadly and frequently communicate necessary public health efforts. These measures will be felt by those that reside on and off campus. We realize that area commuters and our on campus residential students are not exclusive from each other. We continue to be intentional and deliberate in holding students and the members of our campus community accountable for how their actions impact the Westfield State University community as a whole.
Let us all #ProtectTheNest
I cannot emphasize enough how appreciative I am for your cooperation and understanding. Together, we will get through another atypical semester, with the goal of a more successful and “normal” 2021.
We look forward to working with you to ensure our success in that endeavor.