I want to update the campus community on the progress of our planning for welcoming students to campus for the fall semester in August. The four working groups are doing impressive work establishing safety protocols and practices to help achieve our goal of providing as much of the traditional Franklin College experience as possible, including in-person instruction, safely and successfully under current health conditions.
As you can imagine, the list of situations and issues being reviewed is much too comprehensive to share in a single email, but you can be assured that no detail is being missed. From Welcome Week through final exams from the classroom to residence halls to athletic venues, every aspect of what we do here is being evaluated through the lens of safety. The exhaustive work of dedicated colleagues, collaborating with local health officials and in consultation with fellow professionals throughout the state, is producing strategies to minimize risk of exposure for everyone in the campus community.
While our work largely involves the least vulnerable population seriously impacted by the COVID-19 virus, that reality must not encourage complacency. We have an obligation to limit the spread of the illness within a community whose habits are to gather together for nearly every activity. That will require consistent education and a collective responsibility to modify habits to protect the health of the campus community and family and friends beyond the campus.
Much of our preparation is focusing on protecting the students, faculty and staff who are of an age of vulnerability or who have an existing medical condition that increases vulnerability. Many of us will need to adopt mitigation strategies less to protect ourselves than to protect others within the community. Some strategies that are recommendations and suggestions in one setting will be requirements in others. We will be asking everyone to take personal responsibility for assessing their health on a daily basis, reporting any symptoms and refraining from contact with others if symptomatic to any degree. That effort will include required training sessions for students, faculty and staff on self-assessment, proper reporting and self-isolation procedures.
We have equipped the campus with the necessary resources to ensure adequate disinfecting of shared spaces, and our already conscientious attention to cleanliness of facilities will be even more intense. Common areas in every facility (e.g., lounges, work rooms, restrooms, elevators) have posted capacities and masks available when distancing cannot be achieved or is compromised. Students will be educated (and reminded frequently) about necessary habits of cleanliness in residence halls and common bathrooms.
Our class schedule is being evaluated for capacity of venues, and appropriate adjustments will be made as needed. Those adjustments will likely include separating some large classes into smaller sections; moving large classes to venues not typically used as classrooms (e.g., chapel, Branigin Room, Custer Theatre, gymnasium); and extending the normal class day to allow extended use of some larger spaces. Masks will obviously be available in all classrooms, whether their use in a particular class is recommended or required. The results of a recent faculty survey will be used to safely utilize classroom space and refine academic policies. Once those take shape, the guidelines will be shared with the faculty.
We are making appropriate adjustments to dining procedures in collaboration with our food service partners from Parkhurst. The Parkhurst company itself has established extensive new protocols and guidelines for food preparation and distribution. We will assist with the creation of additional dining areas (especially outdoors as weather allows) while Parkhurst contributes helpful alternative services such as more elaborate take-out options.
The combination of adjusting protocols for typical event spaces and the food service operation will result in temporarily not allowing visitors to access the student dining room and eliminating most outside groups from using campus facilities.
We have taken an adequate number of completely segregated residence hall spaces off-line for the fall semester to create quarantine and isolation spaces as needed. Protocols for implementing quarantine practices have been developed. Since my previous email indicating on-demand COVID-19 testing available from our partners at Johnson Memorial Health, several other sources of free testing have also been created in the community.
We are working with fellow members of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and following guidance from the NCAA and our athletic training staff to establish safe protocols for athletic practices, meetings, travel and contests. In order to do what our student-athletes and coaches love to do and what we all love to enjoy from the stands, we will have to develop new habits and be diligent in following new safety guidelines.
Of course, we have more severe contingencies developed if there were to be a surge in cases that required more drastic measures. Fortunately, the dynamics of the illness (e.g., positive cases as a percentage of individuals tested, hospitalizations, deaths) continue to trend in the right direction within the Johnson County area. We certainly hope that good news continues throughout the summer.
As I said, I can’t begin to communicate all the details of all our planning, but we will be fully prepared. All of us shared the pain of being separated for the final two months of the spring semester. All of us are anxious to return to the energy and vitality that make our campus community such a special place to learn and work. We will do so differently, with appropriate steps to ensure safety, and I am fully confident that everyone will contribute to preserving the good health of their fellow Grizzlies.
We will provide further updates as the fall semester approaches. Enjoy the summer, and please be in touch if you have questions.
Kerry N. Prather │ President
101 Branigin Boulevard, Franklin, Indiana 46131-2623
FranklinCollege.edu │ 317.738.8010