We have been busy making careful plans for welcoming you back to campus for the fall 2020 semester and I write to share important updates.
First, we have decided to push back the opening of the semester to September 14, 2020, when we plan to launch our 136th academic year.
COVID-19 has created massive disruption and challenges for the world, for all institutions of higher education, and for Rollins College. You may have seen recent news reports about budget cuts at Rollins. We are re-engineering Rollins to be somewhat smaller, but stronger, and in order to position the College for long-term financial health. Our focus is on excellence in delivering our mission. We are driven by two main goals: to maintain the academic integrity of our programs and attending to the wellbeing of our Rollins community. We have always been keenly focused on the curriculum, the classroom, and supporting student success, but have now doubled-down in these efforts as we look to the future, focusing our resources on our core mission, which is providing you with an unparalleled liberal education. We look forward to welcoming you back to Rollins and our rich learning environment, in and out of the classroom.
We are planning that September 14 will be the first day of in-person classes on campus, and we will follow up this summer with further information about move-in day. That said, given the changing landscape of COVID-19 across the globe, we may be forced to change plans. We will stay in regular communication with you throughout the summer to keep you updated. For those planning to study abroad this fall, by May 30 we will have a decision on our programs.
Summer Learning Opportunities
I am excited to share this news: we are hard at work designing virtual learning opportunities for you over the summer. We will be offering free, for-credit, virtual courses for you in August! More information on these offerings will be sent by the end of the month.
What Will Fall Be Like?
In early April, I created Rollins’ Fall 2020 Task Force, a group of dedicated faculty and staff who were charged with creating a dynamic plan for our fall semester. I’m proud to say this group has developed an integrated and flexible plan to deliver on our core educational mission with the highest integrity while adhering to the best public health practices and guidance. We will continue to follow the advice of federal, state, and local health experts to align our approach to living and learning at Rollins this fall with reducing health risks from COVID-19.
Our goal is to restore Rollins’ on-campus, in-person academic experience as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so. Knowing that we need to remain ready to respond to new information as it becomes available, we would like to outline the following plans for the academic year ahead.
Health and Wellness on Campus
We anticipate beginning the academic year without a COVID-19 vaccine or effective treatment fully developed, so we are working on several dual-mode learning environments. Ideally, we will all be learning on campus, in person, and in class together, but we are cognizant of the challenges our international students and students in more vulnerable populations may face. For those students, there will be the option of participating in class virtually. We are making plans for a variety of scenarios to help you succeed academically.
We are working with our public health partners to make our on-campus Wellness Center CDC-compliant and prepared for the return of students, including offering health screenings and testing.
We are also making preparations to address any situation where a member of our campus community may become ill. To this end, we have reserved quarantine space for students who become ill to ensure their wellbeing and minimize spread of contagions. In addition, we are developing a comprehensive wellbeing campaign for our campus, detailing the College’s approach to general health and safety, including guidance on PPE and wearing masks.
Residence Halls (for CLA) and Dining
Our residence hall and dining teams are poised to respond to social distancing and group size limitations. Staff is hard at work reimagining our residential halls. In addition, the College will work with its dining partner, Sodexo, to develop the safest, most flexible plans for dining occupancy and carry out options.
Each classroom at Rollins is being evaluated to determine the occupancy levels that allow for six-foot social distancing. Should we need to limit group size and/or provide appropriate social distancing, we will manage classroom space to optimize in person classes.
Weather and Other Unforeseen Events
Currently, all students are required to submit a “hurricane plan” in the event campus needs to close for weather-related events. We are expanding this and asking each student to complete a “leave plan” by the start of the academic year, outlining their plans should we need to close our campus for any reason. Our current fall calendar has final exams ending on December 18. To minimize the risk of viral spread, we will not have a fall break this year, but will still have a Thanksgiving break.
Students, together we are working our way through a highly disruptive time. Please know that Rollins is here for you and eager to welcome you back. We have the resources and most of all the people – the wonderful faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni – are committed to Rollins, and that means they are committed to you and your liberal education.