Updated: May 29, 2020 at 5:43PM
The University of Notre Dame will welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 fall semester the week of Aug. 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled, and will forgo fall break in October and end the semester before Thanksgiving, the University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced in letters to the campus community.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Notre Dame sent students home in mid-March to complete the 2019-20 spring semester via remote learning. The University also canceled academic and other summer programming through July 6. In his letters, Father Jenkins extended that cancellation through the remainder of the summer, with the exception of a small number of students whose summer work is preparatory for the fall semester.
“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Father Jenkins wrote. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”
Notre Dame officials have consulted for months with experts on the faculty, members of the infectious disease departments at several leading institutions, a team of medical specialists from Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Mark Fox from the St. Joseph County Department of Health as they work to develop a robust plan to ensure to the greatest extent possible the health and safety of all members of the campus community.
The plan — conceived for students, faculty and staff — will include comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces. As part of its planning, the University has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students who have been in close contact. Testing, contact tracing and the quarantine/isolation protocols will continue throughout the semester and as long as necessary. The University is developing signage and other communications tools to remind the campus community of health expectations and best practices.
“As we adapt to the new normal brought on by the coronavirus, we will do everything we can to provide you with a safe learning, research and working environment,” Father Jenkins wrote, adding that the University will monitor developments and alter plans should a serious outbreak occur, or should it be unable to acquire what is needed for testing.
To accommodate a return to remote instruction in the event of an outbreak of the virus, Notre Dame faculty have been asked to prepare fall courses with two distinct periods of equal length to allow for a smoother transition, should the University be forced to begin on-campus activities later in the fall or end it earlier than scheduled.
Faculty also have been asked to prepare to offer courses both in person and through remote instruction, the latter of which will allow any student in isolation or quarantine to continue to participate.
Father Jenkins also wrote that the University’s Research Task Force is developing a plan for the safe and gradual re-opening of research labs, studios and libraries in coming weeks. He also reported that Notre Dame International is developing criteria for deciding whether to proceed with study abroad programs in the fall and that a decision will be communicated in June.
In reaching the decision to resume in-person classes on campus, Father Jenkins and other members of the administration were guided by three principles: the safety of all students, faculty, staff and their families; an ongoing commitment to offering an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the mind, body and spirit; and an equal commitment to advancing human understanding through scholarship, research and post-baccalaureate programs that heal, unify and enlighten.
In addition to the Research Task Force, two other groups of administrators, faculty and staff are working on all aspects of the reopening of the campus:
- The Academic Continuity Working Group has made recommendations about the academic calendar, the modes of delivering instruction and ensuring flexibility should circumstances change.
- The Medical/Health/Operations Working Group is attending to the various steps needed to keep the campus healthy and safe for everyone who resides and works at Notre Dame.
“These groups have developed plans and are giving me the information I need to make decisions,” Father Jenkins wrote. “In addition, we have met with a Faculty Advisory Committee. I have discussed with this committee key recommendations of the working groups and shared with them my own thinking.”
Father Jenkins encouraged every member of the campus community “to be flexible and adopt behaviors that will make our campus as safe as it can be. In the new normal we are facing, we will need to ask everyone to accept some inconveniences and adopt behavioral norms and practices necessary to protect the health of every member of our community.”
Father Jenkins’ letters are available here.
Daily health checks
- Faculty and staff working on campus should take their temperature daily before coming to campus. If you have a temperature above 100.4 degrees, please do not come to campus. If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Skibins, senior director of emergency management (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- If you have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19--- fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, diarrhea or headache--- OR if you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, please stay home and call your healthcare provider or the Wellness Center (574-634-9355). They can assess whether you should self-quarantine. Please let your department or manager know that you are unable to report to work as expected.
Public health practices
- Practice good hygiene at all times: wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available.
- Faculty and staff working on campus should practice physical distancing – maintaining a minimum of 6 feet distance whenever possible
- Members of the University community and guests on campus must carry masks at all times.
- Masks must be worn by all faculty and staff working on campus whenever physical distancing is not possible or may be difficult to maintain.
- Those working on campus will be provided cloth masks by their supervisors or departments. If you need a mask, please contact your supervisor/department, or Tracy Skibins, senior director of emergency management (email@example.com or 574.631.8344).
- Certain buildings may have signage indicating that masks are required at all times – for example, in the residence halls during move-out. Rules in those signs must be observed even when maintaining appropriate physical distance.
- Campus visitors can buy masks in the University’s Bookstore and in the Morris Inn.
- Those attending public Masses in the Basilica must wear a mask and practice physical distancing before, during, and after Mass, in accordance with the requirements of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Enhanced cleaning protocols
- Entry areas and common spaces will be routinely cleaned and disinfected by the Building Services team in those buildings where employee presence and level of traffic during May and June warrant it.
- Hand sanitizer will be readily available at the entrance of buildings where the level of traffic during May and June warrants it.
- Additional cleaning protocols have been developed to support the student move-out process while keeping our team members and our students and their families safe.
- Cleaning processes and products have been enhanced to help counter possible transmission of the virus per public health guidelines.
Elevators and Stairs
- Employees are encouraged to use the stairs inside campus buildings whenever possible, walking up and down stairs on the right-hand side.
- Most elevators should be limited to two occupants per cab. Floor decals will be placed to show where occupants should stand. Those waiting for elevators in lobbies should practice appropriate physical distancing.
Restrooms and Drinking Fountains/Bottle-filling Stations
- Employees and visitors to campus are expected to keep at least 6 feet distance in restrooms. Please be mindful of the number of individuals inside a restroom, and limit occupancy to allow for appropriate physical distancing.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom to reduce the potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
- Drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations within campus buildings will be disinfected daily.
- Letter to faculty on reopening plans
- Fr. Jenkins' Letter to faculty announcing reopening
- Fr. Jenkins', EVP Cullinan letter to staff
- VP of Research Bernhard letter on phased reopening of labs
- Phased Reopening of Research Information
- Report a Lab Reopening Issue
- Guidelines for returning to work