Dear St. Ambrose students, faculty, and staff:
I am announcing today that classes for the fall semester will begin on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, one week earlier than originally scheduled. The semester will conclude for most students on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
A great deal of time, thought and research — including consultation with public health officials and medical experts — went into this decision. A task force consisting of St. Ambrose faculty and staff with specific expertise — including public health knowledge — researched numerous options ranging from a return to campus to a resumption of the distance-learning model we adopted part way through the spring.
This decision is based on our current understanding of the COVID-19 threat, and the ways institutions such as ours can safely resume operations while taking the steps necessary to minimize risk. The modified fall schedule will allow classrooms and residence halls to be closed from November 25 through mid-January, a time when some health experts predict a potential “second wave” of the coronavirus.
This revised calendar also allows us to maximize face-to-face classes and ensure we are meeting the critical learning needs of our students. The university will also introduce a revised course schedule that will help to ensure social distancing, and this may require classes to operate using a hybrid model that maximizes face-to-face interactions, with some material delivered online.
We are confident this is the best course of action for St. Ambrose University to serve our students well. In surveys conducted among various St. Ambrose constituencies by the Fall 2020 Task Force, students and their families expressed a clear preference for a return to focused, face-to-face classroom learning that has historically been a central strength of a St. Ambrose University education.
St. Ambrose will continue to follow safety recommendations outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as from state and regional health officials. This includes requirements for social distancing and the use of masks (and additional protective equipment as appropriate) in group gatherings. Daily health self-monitoring through an online app will be required of students and employees. Testing and contact tracing of potentially COVID-19-infected students and employees would follow, if recommended by our partnering health professionals.
Students and university employees will also be asked to adhere to a set of behavioral expectations.
We anticipate our residence halls will open at nearly full capacity with new cleaning and disinfecting practices and protocols in place. Move-in dates for fall athletes and other students will be announced shortly.
Varsity athletics will resume with practices in mid-August following the guidelines and schedule reductions recommended last week by the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics.
Extracurricular events and activities will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and will require strict procedures to ensure safe practices before being approved.
Much remains to be determined as we work toward opening this fall with the full understanding that conditions could rapidly change and may require revised plans.
The Cabinet and I have commissioned an Implementation Team which will be working on additional details throughout the summer. Further details of protocols and requirements will be found along with answers to frequently asked questions at www.sau.edu/fall2020.
The university also will provide additional details on the process of returning to campus through a series of online forums for students, faculty and staff later this month. We also commit to regular updates on plans and details as they become available.
We know these past several months have been a challenge for our entire campus community and for those we will welcome to our campus in August. We are blessed to have such a wonderful, conscientious, and committed university community. We look forward to a new beginning in August.
With our best wishes and blessings,