Hello from York College! All of us here have been preparing for the opening of the fall semester on campus. In my June 16 correspondence, I informed you of my decision to bring students back to campus in as safe a way as possible. I applaud both our students and faculty for adapting to our virtual instruction platform. However, we know that a York College experience is not just about what you learn, it is about how you learn. It is our attention to the “how”– real-world experiences that allow students to apply their learning beyond the classroom walls, and faculty who bring firsthand experience and empowering support into the classroom – that make a York College education distinctive.
Like all institutions opening for the fall, we are navigating unfamiliar waters and ever-changing conditions. I ask that you keep the following in mind and continue to be patient when we reopen our campus.
- Life and instruction on campus will be different from that experienced before COVID-19. As is the case for everyday life, being back on campus will require an adjustment to a “new normal."
- The situation continues to be very fluid. Not only do we continue to learn more about the virus, we have also learned how fragile our gains can be with respect to mitigating COVID-19 spread.
- And most important, keeping campus open will require vigilance and cooperation from each of us.
I shared with you in my earlier correspondence some initial information regarding what this new normal at York College will look like. This letter provides additional detail focusing on four areas: Academics, Health and Safety, Student Life, and Living and Dining on Campus.
These topics will be discussed by a panel of campus leaders beginning this week as I host a series of webinars for returning students and families.
July 15 at 3 p.m. - Academics
July 22 at 3 p.m. - Health and Safety/Student Life
July 29 at 3 p.m. - Living and Dining on Campus
Additional information, including how to register for these webinars, is available at www.ycp.edu/return. I hope you will participate and ask any questions you may have as the fall semester draws nearer. In addition, the Return to Campus website will be populated with new details about our plan soon, and we will continue to add information as decisions are made.
Health and Safety: Our Health Services personnel and Return from COVID-19 Task Force have been consulting with and following guidance provided by local, state and federal organizations including the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Protocols and procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus have been developed. While we cannot completely prevent COVID-19 from affecting our campus community, we have taken steps to mitigate its spread.
All members of the campus community will be required to follow PDE and CDC guidelines, including:
- Maintaining social distancing guidelines of at least six feet.
- Wearing a face covering while visiting ALL public spaces on campus, including classrooms, and while traversing campus. (Exemption form is available.)
- Washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer regularly.
- Disinfecting personal electronic devices.
- Waiting outside a fully occupied public restroom until someone exits.
- Following posted occupancy guidelines for elevators, meeting spaces, lounges, study rooms, etc.
- Monitoring individual health metrics.
- Staying home if sick and notifying your instructors, employers, and campus health office.
- Scheduling an appointment with the Health Center or your Primary Care Provider, as necessary.
Every member of our community is expected to adhere to these guidelines. All York College students will be asked to sign a form acknowledging, accepting, and agreeing to comply with new protocols and practices established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who do not comply can be referred to the Student Conduct process.
COVID-19 testing will be available for students on our campus who exhibit symptoms or are identified as at-risk for exposure through contact tracing.
Importantly, we are requesting that students self-quarantine at home for 14 days before returning to campus. Once the semester starts, students should remain on campus or in the surrounding area where the COVID-19 status is most likely similar to that of York County. We ask that students not travel outside of the York area, especially to destinations experiencing a resurgence in positive cases.
Students who cannot adhere to these health and safety regulations may request an accommodation to receive virtual instruction for all courses, with appropriate medical documentation.
Academics: The 2020-21 academic calendar accelerates the academic year by removing all fall breaks in order to get students home by Thanksgiving. A four-week inter-session is planned for the beginning of the spring semester. More information about the inter-session will be provided later in the semester. All inter-session courses, excluding those that require clinicals or field work, etc., will be virtual.
For the Fall 2020 semester, all students should expect to have some face-to-face instruction on campus. However, for some courses, face-to-face instruction will be rotational. That means that the class will be split into two cohorts who will rotate with respect to days of face-to-face and virtual instruction. Students should expect that all instruction will be synchronous. Whether face-to face or virtual, instruction will occur in real-time, and if virtual, using Zoom. We will work to accommodate individual student schedules as much as possible.
We have evaluated more than 100 classrooms on campus and determined the maximum number of students who can be taught face-to-face while observing social distancing of six feet as required by the PDE and the CDC. Furthermore, over the summer we have invested heavily in instructional technology and faculty development to continue to deliver a highly impactful instruction virtually. All student support services will be maintained, including tutoring, health and counseling services, and career services. Faculty will hold office hours virtually.
Living and Dining on Campus: Residence Life will continue offering double and single rooms to students in campus housing. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, visitors are discouraged. Overnight visits will not be permitted.
Information regarding the move-in process has been emailed to students by Residence Life.
Dining facilities (Johnson Dining Hall, West Campus Dining Hall, Sparts Den, Appell Cafe, and Starbucks) will be available to students only. Students must wear face coverings, and they will have their temperatures checked upon entering Johnson and West Campus dining halls. These facilities have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing; additional seating areas will be available throughout campus. Plexiglass shields have been added, as have hand-sanitizing stations. All food will be served by Chartwells staff (no buffets), and no cash transactions will be permitted.
Student Life: Student Activities and the Campus Activities Board will continue to provide engaging events for our students. Many of these will be virtual, and some may even be held outdoors to allow for social distancing. Recreational opportunities will be available in the Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center; however, they will be offered on a more limited basis.
It was recently announced that our NEW athletic conference, the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC), is planning for fall competitions. As a member of the MAC, York College is committed to providing an enriching student-athlete experience through our Division III intercollegiate athletics program. With the health and well-being of our students, coaches, and staff at the forefront of our mission, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 risks as we prepare for the fall semester. Our Spartans will compete so long as the ability to do so aligns with the standards of safety we have established for our entire College community. As warranted, we will update our position on athletics throughout the summer and during the semester.
I hope that this update indicates to you that we are carefully planning our Fall 2020 semester to allow students to return to campus and mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. We will need the cooperation of all campus community members to ensure this happens. Our faculty and staff will also be transitioning to this new normal, with policies and protocols that will affect how they serve our students and this college.
I am sure that you have many questions as you prepare to come to campus. Our Return to Campus website will be updated regularly and will be able to provide answers to most questions, as well as contact information for appropriate campus offices. The website should be your first source of information for most questions; you may also try contacting appropriate campus offices. For questions not answered on the website, we have created a YCP COVID Call Center for your use from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number is 717-815-1900, and the email is email@example.com.
As I have said previously, we are all in this together and we will all get through this together. I look forward to having students back on campus this fall. As always, take care of yourselves and one another.
Pamela Gunter-Smith, Ph.D.