Q: Why are we holding an information session in October? Could things change between now and January?
A: We want to provide current plans as early as possible. With registration going on right now for winter classes, it was important to share our current thinking so students can make informed decisions. However, the evolution of the pandemic is unpredictable. Consequently, we might have to change course if developments merit such a decision.
Q: Do students have the choice not to be physically on campus if they want to continue to take remote classes and live where they are now?
A: Yes. The goal of offering a mix of classes that are online-only, hybrid, and with required in-person components is to provide the maximum flexibility possible so that each student or family can make the choice that is best for them. Hybrid courses are designed so that all required components of the course can be completed remotely. Therefore, students who prefer to take all their courses in a virtual setting are able to do so by selecting online-only and hybrid courses.
Q: What are the current plans to protect the safety of students who do choose to come to campus?
A: There will be three types of testing as part of our protocols: entry testing of all students, faculty and staff who will be on campus; random surveillance testing of 1-2% of our community each day; and continued ongoing testing of symptomatic and exposed students. Masks, social distancing, de-densification of buildings and classrooms, extensive signage and communication and improvements to ventilation are also part of the plans. We are striving to build a culture where it’s everyone’s job to “Protect the Hive” each and every day.
Q: What have we learned from what other smaller schools similar to K have experienced? How have things evolved since the plans for fall were finalized?
A: The decision to include entry and surveillance testing was based on both guidance from public health officials and observation of what’s been successful at other schools of our size. Testing, masking, social distancing and the commitment from students to avoid large gatherings have been important measures in keeping case rates down at smaller schools. Ultimately, the shared commitment of the community to adhere to recommended health protocols can make the biggest difference.
Q: The WMU COVID plan has been successful. Has anyone at K communicated with the WMU officials in charge of coordinating the WMU COVID plan?
A: We are in regular contact with both WMU and KVCC. The scale, size and resources of our institutions are pretty different—Western has a medical school, for example. Some things are applicable, like their experience with testing, and other things are not. We are learning what we can from other institutions, including WMU.
Q: Will students have to pay for testing?
A: The cost of the initial testing at the start of term, as well as the surveillance testing that follows, will be provided at no cost to students. We are looking at whether we may be able to bill insurance for surveillance testing, however, if that is not feasible, the College will pick up the cost of testing. In either case, students will not be required to pay.
The Student Health Center will offer two types of tests for students who are symptomatic or have been a close contact to a known positive case of COVID-19.
- One is a PCR test that takes 24-48 hours for results. The lab will bill the student’s health insurance.
- The other is a rapid test performed in the Student Health Center with results in 15-30 minutes. The cost is $35 and students can submit the bill to their health insurance for reimbursement.
The college health insurance covers both tests at no cost to the student. For other insurance plans, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires most plans cover COVID-19 testing with no copay or deductible for tests that are medically necessary. If you have other coverage, your insurance company will have information regarding its coverage for COVID testing and related visits.
Q: If the plan changes and students can’t return in the winter, when are you planning to announce that?
A: We cannot promise a specific deadline to make that announcement, as safety will always take priority in the decision-making process. Generally speaking, what would cause us to change course would be a direct order or recommendation from government or public health officials, or a significant rise in cases that leads to concerning hospitalization rates, etc. We will continue to meet regularly with local public health officials for guidance.
Q: If winter session does get shutdown, what would be the next time frame to open?
A: We would evaluate the ability to open in Spring Term, which begins March 29.
Q: Will students still be able to take all their courses remotely, and what if a class is listed as hybrid?
A: Yes, students may take all their courses remotely, even if they choose to live on campus. Hybrid courses are designed so that all required components of the course can be completed remotely.
Q: A lot of the classes say online only when looking at registering…is this true or do some of these classes change to hybrid?
A: Class modalities will match what is listed, if nothing changes for Winter term.
Q: My student is attending college courses virtually from out of state. What do we need to do to ensure their learning continues in a supportive environment? Will they need to return to campus and live off campus and attend a hybrid format?
A: Individual students can choose which option works best for them. A student could continue to attend virtually from out of state and would still have full access to their faculty and to relevant academic and other support services via virtual means; such a student could enroll in any course that is online only or in hybrid format. The only students who must reside locally would be those who choose to take a course or courses with required in person components.
Q: How will classes be adjusted if professors become sick?
A: We’ll adjust as we do during any term when a faculty member becomes ill or otherwise can no longer teach a course. The associate provost works with the department to determine what is needed on a case by case basis, whether that’s someone else from the department stepping in for the short term, hiring someone to teach the course longer term, or some other solution.
Q: What have we heard about how classes are going this fall? What have we heard from our faculty and from our students about classes going on right now?
A: Classes overall seem to be going well. We recently completed a survey of faculty and their sense is that the synchronous components of courses are helping students stay more engaged than last spring. They are also seeing high quality work from students. Many faculty members are surveying students in their courses to find out what’s working for them so they can adjust if needed. Students generally feel that classes are going better than they did last spring. First-year students typically have some adjustments to make in going from a high school environment where most of their work happens in the classroom to a college environment where the expectation is at least two hours of outside preparation/work for every hour in class. We suspect that adjustment is even more challenging in a virtual environment. Our associate provost has received some student concerns about specific courses, but those concerns seem to be fewer than in spring.
Q: Students are not meeting every class period this semester. Will the number of student-teacher present class meetings return to a normal level in the winter term?
A: Each course is being designed by faculty to meet the pedagogical needs of the specific subject and course. Given the very real challenges of managing online discussion for large groups and of videoconferencing fatigue for our students, some faculty are electing to split their classes for discussion so that smaller groups of students can engage more deeply and actively in discussions, albeit on a less frequent basis.
Q: Looking to winter, what about theater students? Will there be theater opportunities for them?
A: Yes, we plan for theater opportunities in the winter and spring. This term, our theater department produced one outdoor, masked, socially distanced play and a second play that was virtual.
Q: Why is the College scheduling classes for 8:15 a.m. when a high percentage of the student body is living off campus?
A: Classes need to be scheduled at a range of times to aid students with scheduling. Eight of the 234 course sections for winter are offered at 8 or 8:15 a.m. and are in either a hybrid or in-person required components; most of these are once-a-week lab courses.
Q: Is there still going to be a spring break?
A: Spring Break is still under consideration. Because we are on trimesters rather than semesters, we feel 20 weeks is too long to go without a break between terms. There will likely be a break of some sort, though the length may change. We strongly recommend students take a cautious approach to any spring break plans, using the best health guidance as that time approaches and avoiding travel.
Q: Will next year’s seniors have opportunities to study abroad? Will next year’s juniors lose priority to those seniors?
A: We anticipate being able to accommodate both groups of students. We expect to have a clearer understanding of how many students are interested in fall/winter study abroad for 2021-22 by January. It will be important for juniors who wish to study abroad during their senior year to work with their advisers to ensure they have a plan for meeting all of their graduation requirements. At this point, we plan to offer limited winter/spring and spring programs this year based on the viral situation in the specific location and health care availability on the ground. We are in regular communication with our partners in those programs to monitor viral conditions in those areas in case the situation changes.
Q: Is there any possibility of study abroad options over the summer?
A: We encourage students to apply for Student Projects Abroad (SPA) funding if they want to do research, a project, or an internship abroad. This application requires both a K professor and a mentor abroad to vouch for and oversee the project. Due to financial aid regulations, SPA funding cannot be used for host institution tuition or coursework during the summer and students are unable to utilize their K Financial Aid package to pay for courses taken outside the U.S. during the summer.
The CIP does have a process for approving courses taken outside the U.S. for transfer credit to Kalamazoo College. More information on the process is on the CIP website.
Q. For first year students who are on campus in the winter but doing online classes, will they be able to meet in person with professors?
A: This will be up to each individual professor.
ONGOING HEALTH MONITORING AND TREATMENT
Q: What is the COVID monitoring and screening plan for the winter and spring terms. Is K considering wastewater screening of the dorms?
A: Along with conducting the surveillance testing, K will be tracking the number of students coming into the Student Health Center, the number of positive cases and number of self-reported cases from those who are tested off-campus. We will also be requiring every student, faculty and staff member to perform a simple daily screening before coming to campus, and asking individuals to stay home if they have any symptoms. At this time, we do not plan to screen wastewater.
Q: What is the plan if there is an outbreak on campus? Will you isolate infected individuals on campus or is there an expectation that students will be sent home? What steps will the college take to stop the spread through the campus?
A: Students who test positive will be isolated in a separate location, where they will be brought meals and have regular check-ins. Our intention is not to send students home; if a student wishes to return home, we will not prevent that; however, we strongly recommend the student go directly from the College to their home in a personal vehicle with no stops to prevent spreading infection. Students should avoid taking any sort of public transportation while they are considered contagious.
Q: How would kids quarantine if they get COVID and are not living on campus?
A: Students will isolate at their off-campus housing, similar to what they are doing now.
Q: What is the plan if there are more sick people on campus than the isolation spaces we have available?
A: With daily monitoring we hope to spot such a trend well before we get to our maximum capacity. We’ll continue regular contact with the county health department and will abide by the best public health guidance, which might include a “shelter-in-place” mode or a complete shift to virtual learning and/or an effort to get students back home. All three scenarios have occurred at other institutions.
HOUSING, DINING AND PARKING
Q: Does the college have updated ventilation systems?
A: Each space has been evaluated using national engineering standards to determine what changes need to be made to increase fresh air intake while also maintaining levels of temperature and humidity that support good immune functioning. For public areas where fresh air intake is more limited, additional steps such as individual room air purification are being taken.
Q: If a first-year student decides to stay home and not live in the residence hall for the winter term, will housing still be available in the dorms in spring?
A: If students choose not to come to campus in winter, we will be happy to welcome them in the spring. Please note that we will not be able to guarantee the same housing assignment they received in fall; students should remain in contact with Residential Life regarding their plans, and Residential Life anticipates sending out a planning form similar to what they sent prior to winter.
Q: Is there a timeframe for opening residence halls to non-first-year students? How will K determine which students get a residence hall room? How do students get on a waiting list?
A: We anticipate being able to share more specific information about this in mid- to late November.
Q: Will students get grab and go meals or will they be able to sit in the dining hall?
A: While meals will not be served buffet style, there will be a variety of take-away options. Welles dining hall has been de-densified to allow for some student seating with the appropriate social distancing. Dining will be highly structured and scheduled to mitigate crowds and lines, which will be a change for returning students.
Q: Could students living off campus participate in a meal plan for the days they’re on campus?
A: We believe that we may be able to provide a limited plan for commuter students. We’ll be able to share more about specific meal plans and how dining will work in early December.
Q: Will there be exceptions for first-year parking passes due to COVID and first-year students being alone on campus?
A: First year students are not eligible for a parking permit; exceptions for the rule which are rare include a need for traveling off campus for health and an extended off campus work schedule. First-year students that have opted out of on-campus housing are eligible to apply for a commuter parking permit for 2020-21. Authorization will be granted by the Director of Security after documentation supporting the need is presented.
Q: Assuming students will be able to return in person, how will orientation look for new students?
A: Much of orientation will be online, prior to start of winter term. In-person orientation related to living in residence will occur once students move into the halls.
Q: Is there a list of items students should bring to campus in case they’re quarantined?
A: We recommend that students pack light overall, and prepare a “go bag” in the event of a relocation due to isolation. We will provide necessities for students in isolation.
Q: How are first-year students meeting others?
A: The first-year seminar/orientation groups started meeting in mid-August and those classes continue to meet. Some of the groups have continued to gather for virtual game nights and other activities. Student organizations are also meeting virtually and students had the chance to participate in K Fest, a virtual introduction to the range of student organizations available.
Q: In President Gonzalez’s fall term town hall, administration spoke of specific steps that were planned to build community and plans to reach out to sophomores as an extension of their lost term in fall 2020. What was implemented? How can students better locate and engage in those opportunities?
A: Many offices and departments have reached out to students, including the Office of Student Activities, the Intercultural Center, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Residential Life and various student organizations. Students should feel free to reach out to specific offices and organizations to see what’s going on. Students can also check on the student portal to learn about numerous virtual events.
BILLING AND STUDENT EMPLOYMENT
Q: If students commit to moving on campus now and then later have a change of heart, will refunds be available for housing and meal plans? If we get to K and just don’t feel comfortable, is there a timetable to change our mind and get a refund? What is the firm deadline in terms of being charged for room and board?
A: Students can receive a full refund of room and board charges through the first day of class in January. There is a pro-rated refund schedule thereafter.
Q: If some students will be moving on-campus for winter, will there be additional on-campus job opportunities for work/study and other employment?
A: There will be job opportunities posted for departments that require student support. Some areas that typically offer employment, such as the Book Club, may not have the same opportunities depending on which facilities are open and their hours.
Q: Will there be any restrictions on students working off campus?
A: No. We know that some students rely on off-campus jobs to pay tuition and expenses. We expect students to follow the health and safety protocols of masking, social distancing and handwashing while they are at work and to participate in contact tracing if there is a workplace COVID case.
Q: Will the student-athletes be on campus for the start of the new term in January? What are the testing requirements for the athletes?
A: Student athletes are not required to be on campus or participate in athletics this winter. For those who choose to be, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (our athletic conference) plans to begin competition in winter sports in late January; our athletic director and president are active participants in ongoing conference-level conversations about winter competition. For our athletes, we are following advice from our team physicians and NCAA guidelines for acclimation and competition, including a phased plan of acclimation to practice activities, beginning with non-contact and moving toward more contact over time, and testing according to NCAA guidelines.
Q: When will the athletic gym open?
A: We are following the advice of our team physicians on when to start athletics physicals (they recently started). Our athletics staff have submitted a plan for starting workouts for our student athletes that account for physician advice and NCAA requirements. In the shorter term, our on-campus fitness center has opened recently on a pilot basis, so all students have access to that exercise facility during the week.
Q: Why are athletes promoting bringing first-year students onsite to campus to spend the night?
A: Athletes should not be promoting bringing first-year students onsite, as no one is on campus. The AD is aware of one team that was promoting that and the proposed event was shut down. All coaches and athletes are reminded that most facilities on campus are closed.
Q: Do we have a plan in place yet for a place for the swimming & diving team to practice?
A: Western Michigan University announced the closure of their natatorium in September as part of its budget plan. We are still working on a new temporary location for the Swimming & Diving team.
Q: How will sports work with traveling to other venues to play?
A: The conference is talking about how this will work in terms of bussing and transportation. At this time, we are not planning any travel that would require a hotel stay; fortunately, all schools in our conference are an easy day trip.