June 1, 2020
Bowie State University Plan for Fall 2020 Return to Campus
The significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt throughout Maryland and our nation, and yet Bowie State University remains committed to our mission of providing access and affordability to a high-quality educational experience. As we look to the fall 2020 semester, I ask that every member of our campus community continue to draw on the tenacious determination of our Bulldog spirit, facing the new normal together.
After careful consideration and with input from the campus-wide Return to Campus Workgroup, BSU will embark on a phased approach for the start of the fall 2020 semester. The BSU Return to Campus Plan achieves the goal of reducing the number of students on campus to enable effective physical distancing in classrooms, residence halls and dining spaces. If you have questions after reading the plan outline below, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org for a timely response.
Bowie State University will begin the fall semester on Monday, August 31, with a strategy that significantly reduces the density of student population on campus in order to adhere to CDC guidelines. Instruction will be delivered with a mix of in-person classes, classes that combine in-person and virtual methods, as well as fully remote classes. All classes will be developed with the framework for remote delivery to accommodate flexibility in scheduling, along with faculty and student preferences. We will transition all classes to a remote learning environment after the Thanksgiving break.
Planning for the fall 2020 semester began with global assumptions guiding decision-making, with the most prominent being protection of the health and safety of our campus community. Additional assumptions include:
- State and local stay-at-home orders being lifted
- Availability of sufficient coronavirus tests for those who need one and personal protective equipment for the campus community
- Continuation of CDC guidance to maintain a 6-foot distance between individuals
Return to Campus Workgroup and Decision-making Process
The campus-wide planning efforts, under the direction of the BSU Return to Campus Workgroup, brought forward thoughtful recommendations in consideration of key issues and our university strategic priorities. The workgroup is comprised of a broad cross-section of campus members, including representatives of key operational units and all shared governance groups. Much appreciation is owed to these dedicated individuals, who will continue to work throughout the summer, as we continue our planning process.
Reducing Campus Density
Hybrid First-Year Intensive Model
The plan selected to effectively reduce density on campus is called a Hybrid First-Year Intensive Model. It focuses on offering in-person classes primarily for first-year students. Bowie State particularly recognizes the importance of an effective transition for first-year students to the collegiate educational and co-curricular experience. Success in the first year is critical to students’ academic and personal development. The direct engagement with our faculty, along with immersive co-curricular activities, are important in nurturing their ability to persist at the university. We also hope to offer in-person classes for some upper-class students, particularly in programs where hands-on activities and access to specialized equipment are difficult to replicate virtually.
We recognize that the limited low-density constraints of the campus and an emphasis on the first-year experience will be challenging. While we will seek to accommodate as many students as possible returning to the campus for classes, the fact remains that space will be limited during the ongoing concerns for safety during the pandemic. We will continue to monitor the virus and make adjustments, if possible. The university is also seeking to provide additional virtual learning supports. More information will be provided on this and other initiatives, as plans are developed.
The requirements for physical distancing in the residence halls will also necessitate a substantial reduction in the number of residential students. In alignment with the Hybrid First-Year Intensive instructional model, the university will strive to ensure that first-year students can have an on-campus living experience. Some accommodations will be available for targeted upper-class students with special circumstances, and efforts are underway to secure additional off-campus housing.
Return of Employees
Our plan outlines a phased return of staff and faculty to the campus over the course of the summer. We anticipate this will begin with faculty researchers in mid-June, as part of a joint effort with other University System of Maryland (USM) researchers to pilot some protocols for wider use in the fall.
We anticipate that some teleworking will continue in the fall, especially for staff in high-risk categories and those caring for loved ones. A combination of mixed in-person/telework strategies may also be used to reduce density in some offices.
Protecting Health and Safety
As we continue planning to execute this strategy, the safety of all members of the campus community will be the overarching principle guiding our actions. Our decisions will comply with all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Along with other USM institutions, as noted by Chancellor Jay Perman in his May 29 statement, we plan to have in place certain critical safeguards to screen and monitor the presence of coronavirus within our campus. We also plan to isolate and quarantine any individuals who may contract COVID-19 or are exposed to it.
Our facilities management staff has maintained aggressive cleaning and sanitizing practices throughout the campus since the health crisis developed. Emphasis on high-touch surfaces will continue, with the addition of new protocols for cleaning classrooms and other spaces as we return to campus.Planning efforts will continue throughout the summer, and some questions about the fall semester will still need to be resolved. In the meantime, we ask for your patience and cooperation. BSU is committed to transparency and will continue to provide our campus community with regular communications, as more information becomes available from our federal, state and local experts.
I want every member of the BSU community to know that we are carefully working to advance plans that meet the unique needs of Bowie State University and that protect the health and well-being of everyone to the best of our ability.