Changes to Fall Opening Plan

Dear Students and Families,

I hope you are well.  We are so looking forward to the start of the semester and to seeing many of you soon.  Whether you are arriving in-person or studying remotely, we are enormously glad that you will be with us as we go into this historic year, together. Our RAs have moved in and are looking forward very much to welcoming more students and establishing a healthy and welcoming community for living and learning.

As you all know, COVID-19 continues to spread around the country, and this weekend Federal officials have made clear that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic.  Over the last several days, our health and safety teams have reflected carefully, and spoken with our public health experts, on what changes we need to make so that we are best able to bring students to campus safely under these new circumstances.  I’m writing now to share those important changes in our plans.  I apologize for the length of this email, but I know you will have many questions.

As we have said since March, part of the challenge of this time is its uncertainty.  We are facing new circumstances and new science as the pandemic evolves.  Here at Wooster, we are absolutely committed to health and safety, and to supporting students in their learning, growth and preparation for their futures.  Part of that commitment is constant monitoring of the local situation as well as the best public health guidance, and readiness and flexibility to pivot to new ways of working as the facts require. 

Move-in and the start of classes.

We still look forward to welcoming all students to campus who would like to be here.  However, now that case levels are higher in many communities, we believe that the most robust and safe approach to welcoming students back is to bring them to campus more gradually. We will phase arrivals to be sure we are able to robustly test, identify and isolate any cases of asymptomatic infection, and establish a healthy community in each phase before additional students arrive and in-person classes commence. The semester will begin on Wednesday, 8/19, as planned, but classes will start remotely to accommodate this phased move in. All classes will run remotely for the first two and half weeks of classes, through September 5th.  Starting September 7th, classes that are designed as in-person or hybrid classes will start meeting in-person in their classrooms, in accordance with public health guidance. Your professors are so looking forward to working with you, and they will contact you by email with instructions about how to prepare for your first remote class meeting.

Here is the new move-in schedule.

  • To reduce their chance of getting ill before coming to campus, all students are asked to self-quarantine as much as possible in the week before arrival, limiting their contact with people outside their families, and taking care to adhere to wearing masks and social distancing while traveling to Wooster.
  • First-year and transfer students will move in as originally planned between 8/11 - 8/13
  • Sophomores, juniors and seniors who have move-in dates of 8/17 - 8/18 can keep those dates.
  • Seniors whose IS work requires being on campus, and other students for whom being on campus is critical to their safety, are asked to select a new move-in appointment between 8/17-8/18 (if not already booked for these dates) via this form.
  • All other returning students are asked to select a new move-in appointment on August 23, 24, 30 and 31 using this form. Appointments will be live Friday morning, August 7, 2020
  • We know that international students have specific travel requirements and concerns. International students will receive additional information later today to be sure their travel works smoothly.

Move-in will be carefully scheduled so that only a limited number of students return to campus each day, and dorms do not become crowded during move-in. Students will be required to take a COVID-19 test upon their arrival to campus for their scheduled move-in appointment.

Room and board charges will be reduced based on the timing of students’ arrival on campus.

  • Students arriving between 8/19 and 8/26 will receive a rebate of $450 credited to their student account.
  • Students arriving between 8/26 and 9/2 will receive a rebate of $900 credited to their student account.

We know that changing students’ arrival time so close to the start of the semester means a disruption in travel plans for many students and families.  We apologize for this inconvenience, and we will work with students and families to minimize the difficulties and make move-in as smooth as possible.  If any sophomore, junior or senior is unable to change their existing move-in appointment either because of difficulties arranging travel, concerns about flights, or for IS or other needs, they may file an appeal with the Dean of Students’ Office using this form.

We do have emergency funds available for students who may need them, for any reason. Here is the link to apply, and you can also contact dos@wooster.edu with any questions about emergency funds.

In an effort to assist students and families during this difficult time, the College has decided to waive all late fees for the fall semester. However, we continue to encourage students to submit payment for the fall semester prior to the start of classes.  If you have any questions please contact the Office of Student Accounts at businessoffice@wooster.edu.

Testing: The College set up multiple contracts for COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the summer to ensure that we would have multiple back-up plans given the strains on the testing pipeline that have been occurring periodically.  At this time, rapid antigen testing in the US has been diverted to serve only nursing homes, and so we will be using high-accuracy PCR (molecular) testing for screening all students upon arrival, and as well as for regular assessment of the health of the community over the semester.  These tests are quick, relatively non-invasive nasal swabs procedures, with results returning within 24-48 hours.

Quarantine: Per the travel advisory from the Ohio Department of Health,students coming from areas identified by the State of Ohio as hot spots (positivity rate of 15% or greater) will be required to quarantine in an individual space with a single bathroom, provided by the College, until their tests are returned within 36-48 hours. The College will appoint a supportive contact-person to assist students who need to quarantine, and food and other necessities will be provided during this time. Students will be able to move into their residence halls once a negative test result is received, or moved to isolation if they test positive.  These students will be tested a second time five to seven days after move-in. (NOTE: They will not need to quarantine for this second test.)

Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be moved to isolation and provided with a supportive contact-person in student affairs to assist with their needs and answer questions, as well as a nurse from the Wellness Center, who will provide regular check-ins and review daily symptom monitoring reports.  Students in isolation will be provided with food and other necessities to ensure they stay hydrated and well-nourished, and recover as quickly as possible. Our partners at the Wooster Community Hospital will provide additional support if students develop symptoms and need further care.

The first 48-hours on campus: Students arriving on campus will do the COVID-19 test, and then move to their rooms.  During the first 48-hours on campus, while awaiting their test results, students will minimize their contact with others as much as possible.  That means keeping to their rooms as much as possible and leaving only for necessities such as picking up food to-go from Lowry Dining Hall.   Students are also welcome to walk outside (with masks on) as long as they do not gather in groups, and maintain at least 6 feet from others.  Students will receive the result of their COVID-19 test within 48 hours of arrival.

The first weeks on campus (through 9/7):  As students arrive on campus, we will be making every effort to establish a safe community and reduce the chance of new infections.  The following rules will be in place during this time.

  • Students are asked to stay on campus, except for any medical or other critical necessities. Community engagement and service-house projects need to take place remotely only. Students with off-campus employment are asked to make alternative arrangements until September 7th, or contact the Dean of Students’ Office if this creates a hardship.
  • No visitors to campus will be permitted
  • Dining will be provided in a To-Go format only.
  • The library will remain accessible to all students but with limited capacity.
  • The Scot Center will be available, but students will need to book a time to use the weight rooms and other fitness spaces to ensure spaces are always sanitized and capacity is limited.
  • Students will take their temperature each day, and monitor themselves for any other symptoms, reporting them on our symptom app.

The College will constantly monitor campus and community health during these first few weeks of fall semester.  With everyone’s shared effort, we will come to September 7th with the campus community health in a good position to start classes in person, eat together in Lowry and begin our ramp up of other community activities.  At that point, we may also begin to permit family visits (with masks and symptom monitoring) and broader use of the library and Scot Center. However, community engagement and service house projects will need to remain remote through at least the end of September as we evaluate public health conditions. Symptom monitoring will continue throughout the year.

I know that many students and families are continuing to make important decisions about their fall plans, and we want you to have all the information you need.  We will hold two open discussions to answer your questions.

  • Thursday, August 6th, at 5:30 pm, for parents.
  • Friday, August 7th, at 4 pm for students.

Please also check the FAQ here, and feel free to write to wooster-covid-19@wooster.edu with any additional questions you may have.

We look forward to welcoming you to the fall semester!

President Bolton