A message about spring 2021 plans

October 14, 2020

The following message was shared to campus regarding minimester and spring plans for 2021.

Dear TU students, faculty & staff,

We are about a third of the way through our fall 2020 term and the preparation and planning for spring 2021 is well underway. We want to again express our sincere appreciation to our entire university community for their efforts and cooperation throughout this year.

Regarding the minimester and spring 2021 terms, several major decisions have been made that we would like to share. Those plans regarding the academic calendar, class delivery, staffing and student life are as follows:

  • There will be no changes to the academic calendar for the minimester and spring 2021 terms. Major dates for your reference include:
    • Minimester will begin Monday, Jan. 4, with classes ending on Friday, Jan. 22.
    • Spring term will begin Monday, Jan. 25, with classes ending on Tuesday, May 11.
    • Spring break will take place from March 14–21 (Sunday to Sunday).
    • Final exams will be held May 12–18 (Wednesday to Tuesday).

Instruction for the minimester and spring 2021 terms will be as follows:

  • All minimester classes will be offered via remote instruction only.
  • As previously announced, no study abroad programs will be offered during the minimester or spring terms.
  • Unlike the fall 2020 term, the first two weeks of the spring 2021 term (Jan. 25–Feb. 7) will be delivered wholly via remote instruction; however, exceptions will be made for selected laboratories, clinical experiences, internships and experiential courses.
  • After those first two weeks, beginning Feb. 8, classes may continue to be offered remotely, but, in addition, face-to-face and hybrid instruction will be held on campus.
  • During the spring term, approximately 85% of instruction will be offered remotely while face-to-face and hybrid course delivery will be conducted at previously determined, reduced densities in accordance with federal, state and local health and safety guidance.
  • Faculty will continue to have the ability to determine the modality of their courses. Including synchronous elements to all remote instruction is highly recommended.
  • More information about course modalities will be made available prior to the start of spring registration.

Plans for residential life on campus for the spring 2021 term include:

  • On-campus, university-owned residence halls will house approximately 2,300 students, with the university fulfilling those requests already made for the spring term.
  • The 2,300-student limit is a much-reduced density, representing approximately 30% of residence halls’ total capacity.
  • No more than two students will share the same bathroom, and all students will have single bedrooms.
  • Move-in will be completed prior to the beginning of classes on Jan. 25. It will again be an appointment-based process. Additional information regarding move-in will be shared with residential students over the coming weeks.

Plans for on-campus and telework for the minimester and spring 2021 terms include:

  • TU faculty and staff will continue to adjust work schedules, with telework preferred whenever possible. Additionally, some individuals will regularly report to campus to provide the necessary support and services for students and the campus community.
  • Anyone with questions about their work schedule should consult their supervisor for more guidance and direction.

Plans for COVID-19 testing, Tigers Care QuickScan and campus management for health and safety for the minimester and spring 2021 terms include:

  • Quarantine and isolation space on campus will be doubled to 196 beds, with additional residence halls in queue if needed. More staffing to support and care for students in quarantine/isolation has been added to the Division of Student Affairs.
  • As a USM institution, TU has partnered with CRISP, a statewide health information exchange, to better enable rapid response to individuals testing positive for COVID-19.
  • As required this fall, all TU students, faculty and staff must present evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 10 days prior to returning to campus in 2021. More details about this baseline testing will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.
  • Sentinel testing for COVID-19, commenced this fall in collaboration with the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, of a randomly selected sample of our on-campus community will continue in 2021. Further details about sentinel testing will be provided in the next several weeks.
  • The Tigers Care QuickScan will continue to be used as another means to monitor the presence of COVID-19 within the campus community. Anyone who regularly comes to campus and all residential students will be required to participate in this program. More details will follow in the weeks ahead.
  • Towson University will continue to be a mask-on campus. Inside campus buildings, masks and 6 feet of physical distancing will be required, unless you are alone in a private office space with the door closed. Outside campus buildings, masks are required if you cannot provide 6 feet of physical distancing from others.
  • TU will continue to not allow guests in residence halls or on campus.
  • TU will continue to not allow the use of campus or facilities by third-party groups.

What we have learned and are learning

Since the pandemic began earlier this year, we’ve all learned a great deal about the virus and how it impacts our community.

Here is some of what we’ve learned and continue to learn:

  • Faculty and staff have worked as tirelessly to provide and support the same rigorous education in a remote and hybrid format as they do in a face-to-face environment. Much of it is through synchronous instruction—providing real-time engagement and connection students strongly prefer.
  • TU’s test strategy, in concert with the University System of Maryland, protected the campus community by preventing individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 from returning to residence halls, classrooms and workspaces.
  • Sentinel testing of a randomly selected sample of our on-campus population every two weeks will continue to further allow us to monitor the health of our campus community and manage the presence of the virus within the TU community.
  • We’ve had very low rates of infection in staff members and no evidence COVID-19 has been transmitted in the workplace.
  • Testing efforts through the University Health Center have led to more than 14,500 tests administered to members of the TU community. Data compiled from the results of these tests have informed our decision-making, and results are being shared weekly on our dashboard. The first round of sentinel testing was recently completed, with zero positive results among nearly 700 tests.
  • Our campus community has proven Tigers care, following our guidelines of physical distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, sanitizing and participating in the Tigers Care QuickScan symptom monitoring program.
  • As space set aside for on-campus quarantine and isolation filled in late August, we doubled the rooms available for this purpose.
  • Move-in will be completed prior to the beginning of classes.
  • Unlike the fall, the first two weeks of classes will be completely remote instruction.
  • The challenges of this pandemic are multifaceted, from physical health to mental health, from access to services to access to funds for basic needs. TU has worked hard to provide support for students, faculty and staff on all these fronts.

As we have since February, we will continue to put health and safety first and foremost, adhering to all local, state and federal guidelines. In addition to our continuous efforts to address the pandemic and to keep our community safe, we have also been observing and discussing the variety of approaches taken by other institutions, learning from their successes and challenges.

All of this has informed university leadership’s approach for 2021, which supports the academic rigor and engaging opportunities our students have come to expect from our nationally ranked university and maintains our Tigers Care COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

TU faculty and staff have continued to demonstrate how much they truly care about each and every one of our students. From providing support to the student emergency fund to finding creative solutions for unprecedented issues, the care for our Tigers is evident. University leadership will conduct a virtual town hall for faculty and staff on Thursday, Oct. 22.

We look forward to the successful completion of the fall term and a safe and healthy start to the new year. We will provide more detailed updates regarding 2021 in the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Kim Schatzel
President

Melanie Perreault
Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs