MUS Healthy Fall 2020: Planning Guidelines for Campuses
Table of Contents
- Deliver Quality Instruction
- Conduct Research and Creative Scholarship
- Provide Student Housing
- Provide Food Services
- Events and Welcoming Students/Visitors to Campus
- Provide Student Support Services
- Staff Campus Operations
- Maintain Buildings and Facilities
- Provide Campus Transportation
- Campus Safety and Security
Dear Montana University System Community,
We hope this letter finds you well and excited for a return to on-campus instruction and student life across the Montana University System for the Fall 2020 semester.
In close collaboration with public health officials at the state and local levels, the MUS Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force has produced a handbook of Fall 2020 Planning Guidelines that serve as a basic blueprint for campuses as they craft more detailed plans for a high-quality experience that also mitigates health and safety risks for students, employees, and surrounding communities.
The guidance offered here is the result of extensive research and intensive discussion. The Task Force solicited feedback from campus experts, as well as a broader population of employees, students, and administrators across the MUS. Importantly, guidelines have been crafted with, and reviewed by, state public health officials from Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services.
While it is important to acknowledge that public health risk factors cannot be entirely eliminated even in the best of times, we are confident that this handbook provides campuses with the clear planning protocols they need to safely and enthusiastically welcome students back for the kind of academic and extra-curricular experience that has distinguished our campuses for decades and – in some cases – more than a century.
As the public health situation in Montana evolves, we will continue to work together and monitor any challenges and opportunities that arise and any adjustments that need to be made. But with these guidelines in place, we have developed the required architecture for campuses to enter the next phase of planning for a Healthy Fall 2020.
Many thanks to the task force members, public health officials, and all those who participated in the development of these guidelines. We all look forward to the end of the summer when we can welcome students back for a successful semester at all of our Montana University System campuses.
Clayton T. Christian Dr. Greg
Commissioner of Higher Education State Medical Officer
Montana University System Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services
The Montana University System (MUS) Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force has developed planning guidelines for MUS campuses as they prepare for on-campus academic and student life during the Fall 2020 semester and beyond. The MUS intent to return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester is based on assessments of the current and projected public health threat posed to Montana by COVID-19 and extensive communication with public health officials and statewide leaders across Montana.
The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) and the Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force will continue to communicate with public health officials and assess the public health risk from COVID-19. We encourage campuses to develop contingency plans in all areas that are adaptable to decreased or increased public health risk environments.
The planning guidelines presented in this document do not represent an operational plan in itself; campuses should instead use these guidelines as a framework within which they can develop their own more detailed and tailored plan for the Fall 2020 semester. As such, the guidelines can be thought of as a mid-altitude planning checklist – granular enough to provide useful direction, but not meant to replace the kind of context-sensitive planning that can only emerge at the campus level. As campuses develop their specific operational plans, we encourage an inclusive process that reflects input from administration, employees, students, local public health officials, and other community partners.
Campuses will plan together for the Fall 2020 semester under the broad authority and responsibility of the Board of Regents (BOR) to supervise and manage the MUS, and with a charge from the BOR to prioritize health and safety measures, while continuing to effectively serve their students, their communities, and the State of Montana.
The guidelines are separated into two categories: Integrated Guidelines and Planning Areas. Integrated Guidelines represent protocols, policies, and considerations that MUS campuses should account for as they develop strategies in any Planning Area. Planning Areas represent the different operational imperatives across the MUS; they account for the things that our institutions do. Each Planning Area identifies essential items that campuses must address as they build their Healthy Fall 2020 plan. It is important to note that some Planning Areas do not apply to certain campuses. For example, some of our two-year campuses do not provide housing in the manner represented in this document. Each Planning Area also includes planning considerations, or those items that campuses are encouraged, though not required, to address in their Healthy Fall 2020 plans.
Health and Safety Protocols: Campuses will promote safety, cleaning, and social distancing policies as defined by local, state, and federal public health authorities. Campuses should strongly encourage use of face coverings when social distancing is not possible. In planning and in communication with returning students and employees, campuses need to explicitly acknowledge that there are some increased risks associated with a return to living, learning, and working on campus. Reasonable accommodations such as tele-work and remote learning will be made for students, employees, or campus visitors who are at an increased risk. Campuses will coordinate with OCHE to establish any needed guidelines for use of personal safety supplies, cleaning supplies, and health monitoring equipment.
Public Health Testing & Tracing Protocols: Campuses will work to support the monitoring, testing, and tracing efforts as well as quarantine and isolation protocols advised by their local and state public health authorities. Campuses will collaborate, share information, and review their plans for repopulating campus with local public health officials. In coordination with local public health officials, campuses will develop mitigation strategies to reduce health risks to students, employees, and communities.
Budgetary Considerations: While additional investment may be required in certain areas, all planning should be mindful of our budgetary constraints and be designed to minimize costs. Whenever possible, strategies should move towards budget-neutral or budget-savings strategies. For strategies that do require additional resources, campuses should primarily rely on resource re-allocation or identification of new revenue that will cover expenses. For funds from FEMA Public Assistance, the CARES Act, or insurance, campuses will coordinate with OCHE to ensure appropriate policies are followed.
Leveraging Technology: In-person instruction, student life, and campus operations should be enhanced, whenever possible, by use of technology to mitigate health and contagion risks and to more easily facilitate possible transitions between in-person and remote operations and instruction. A shared services approach should be prioritized when pursuing new technologies.
Communication: Campuses will develop communications plans that effectively and quickly share new policies, schedules, health and safety standards, and other information with students, employees, and communities. The OCHE Communications Director and campus communities, including students and their families, should be informed of significant changes before they are announced to the broader public.
Travel: In all operational areas, policies for all university-sponsored or affiliated travel (essential, non-essential, international, out-of-state, in-state, student, employee, student group, athletic, etc.) will be developed in coordination with OCHE in accordance with state and federal (CDC, US Department of State, etc.) guidelines. In coordination with OCHE and following the guidance of state and federal travel guidelines, all campuses will make recommendations about the personal travel of students and employees.
Accessibility & Privacy: Alterations to existing instruction, campus life, and operations should continue to comply with state and federal accessibility guidelines (IDEA, ADA, etc.) and should continue to adhere to federal privacy requirements (HIPAA, FERPA, etc.).
- Establish a classroom occupancy, traffic flow, and course scheduling plan that minimizes health risks associated with in-person instruction.
- Where possible, work with faculty to develop flexible instructional plans that leverage instructional technology, encourage blended delivery, and encourage smaller groups for in-person class meetings.
- Work with faculty to develop a plan for quickly transitioning to remote delivery during the semester should conditions warrant.
- Provide training and resources to help faculty maximize use of learning technologies and blended course delivery.
- Establish tools and practices to assess student learning in remote, blended, or other delivery formats.
- To the greatest extent possible, develop a technological infrastructure (e.g. course scheduling, LMS shells, etc.) that can transition between remote and in-person delivery.
- Account for impacts on federal and state compliance requirements (accessibility, financial aid, Veteran’s services, etc.) resulting from alterations to instruction models and/or physical learning spaces and identify how compliance requirements in each area will be met.
- Make decisions about experiential learning (e.g. internships, clinical work, student teaching in K-12 settings, education abroad, etc.) based on an assessment of health risks at destination/learning site, compatible approaches by external partners, size of learning group, equipment needs, health risks associated with required transportation, and the extent to which the experience is essential (for accreditation etc.) to the program of study.
- Consider incentives that promote faculty engagement in training/professional development activities (note: consult with relevant campus HR and faculty associations, collective bargaining agreements, and OCHE HR regarding faculty work during “off contract” periods).
- Consider developing a strategy that addresses equity gaps that may be exacerbated by increased reliance on reliance on remote or technology-enable delivery modes.
- Consider targeted mental health and wellness plans for faculty, instructional staff, and students who may seek support in adjusting to new campus rhythms under COVID-19.
- Consider greater tracking of classroom attendance and/or promoting consistent seating arrangements to assist public health authorities in contact tracing in the event of exposure.
- Consider any community health risks and community engagement benefits of delivering in-person Lifelong Learning, Extension, and Community Outreach programming.
- Establish clear protocols for moving between Research Operation Levels 0-4.
- Develop standard operating procedures and protocols for cleaning, social distancing, and traffic flow in lab/workspaces. Particular attention should be given to cleaning and usage of shared lab/workspace equipment.
- Design meetings with off-campus research collaborators and sponsors to minimize health and transmission risks.
- Consider working with principal investigators and funding agencies to amend allowable grant expenditures to include additional health and safety measures that will mitigate risks associated with conducting research and creative scholarship.
- Consider if, and how, campus evaluation of research and creative scholarship (e.g. for promotion, tenure, merit, relevant awards) might be adjusted in light of COVID-19 disruption.
- Develop an occupancy plan for residence halls to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This plan should be completed in coordination with university emergency management, university health professionals, and county public health officials.
- Follow campus cleaning procedures for all common areas (e.g. shared restrooms, study areas, laundry rooms, vending machines, etc.), with special attention to high touch surfaces.
- Conduct training on public health measures and signs/symptoms of COVID-19 for all live-in professionals, graduate hall directors, residence advisors, and others in similar roles.
- Develop a plan, including but not limited to signage and traffic flow markings, to promote social distancing in high occupancy or confined areas within residence halls (e.g. elevators, stairs, and entrances).
- Reconfigure seating in common areas to ensure proper social distancing.
- Build a “welcome back to campus” plan that establishes staggered move-in dates/times, promotes social distancing, and accommodates smaller group orientation sessions.
- Develop a plan to address any relevant quarantine or health-related requirements for out-of-state students returning to residence halls. This plan should align with statewide requirements and be completed in coordination with university emergency management, university health professionals, and county public health officials.
- Develop a plan for the quarantine and isolation of campus residents awaiting COVID-19
test results, after testing positive for COVID-19, or when directed to quarantine
by public health officials. Whether on campus or off campus, isolation rooms should:
- Be physically separated from other residential student rooms.
- Have private bathroom facilities and be stocked with a thermometer, sanitizing wipes, tissues, soap, hand sanitizer, and toiletries.
- Where possible, make accessible addition equipment for monitoring vital signs (e.g. pulse oximeters).
- Be pre-identified and available to accommodate an increase in need.
- Be accessible for food delivery from campus food service or other arranged delivery.
- ave connectivity that allows students to continue academic study through remote access whenever possible.
- Consider plans to limit residence hall access and visitation policies.
- Consider travel limitations for students that resemble those for employees (for both school-related travel and personal travel).
- Consider alternate living arrangements for students who self-identify as having significant health issues and/or as immuno-compromised.
- Consider adjusting desk operations in residence halls to reduce contact/touch, such as package delivery, mail distribution, etc.
- Consider a training program for residential staff that focuses on how to manage conflicts between students over adherence to COVID-19 protocols and what to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19.
- Establish hours of operation that allow for facility occupancy that meets social distancing guidelines and allows proper cleaning and sanitation. Specific approaches should draw from established CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community) and ACHA (https://www.acha.org/COVID-19) guidelines.
- Require all dining facility staff to wear face masks and gloves while working and interacting with the public.
- Plan to limit the number of individuals dining in a single facility at one time. Dining hall capacity should achieve appropriate physical distancing of diners, and, once the target capacity is reached, an additional individual should only be allowed entry when another leaves.
- Eliminate buffet-style, self-serve food and beverage stations and replace with staff-served meal stations.
- Develop traffic flow patterns and seating arrangements for each venue that allow for social distancing and discourage unnecessary congregating. Physically spaced (6-foot) floor markers should be used for waiting lines outside and inside the facility. Inside the facility there should be an appropriately limited number of tables and chairs per table.
- Promote more pre-order, curbside pick-up, delivery, and “grab-and-go” food service options.
- Arrange for food delivery to students in isolation or quarantine.
- Consider establishing staggered mealtimes for sit-down venues with specified times for students (residential and non-residential), employees, and visitors.
- Consider establishing additional food service facilities (including food trucks) on campus to allow for greater social distancing and less congregation.
- For all event venues, develop occupancy limits and seating charts that follow local and state guidelines on event size and that allow for social distancing at all events.
- For all event venues, establish rules for traffic flow and congregational spaces (e.g. bathrooms, concession areas) that minimize risk of disease transmission while still meeting accessibility requirements.
- For all venues and for each event, establish a pre-event, intra-event, and post-event cleaning plan based on public health and CDC guidelines. Ensure that event scheduling allows for appropriate cleaning to take place between the conclusion of one event and the beginning of another.
- For all major, high-occupancy events (e.g. Commencement, Homecoming), develop a plan
- Moving events to Spring 2021 or Academic Year 2021-2022 when possible.
- Breaking up singular event instances into multiple, smaller instances of that event.
- Avoiding overlapping events that place stress on campus staffing, cleaning resources, and ability to maintain social distancing.
- For “welcome to campus” events (e.g. orientation, move-in day), develop a plan that considers:
- Staggering arrival/move-in days and times to allow for smaller groups and lighter traffic flow.
- A strategy coordinated with state and local public health authorities for testing students who are returning to campus from time recently spent out-of-state due to travel or residency.
- Breaking up larger orientation events into multiple smaller events.
- Allowing students to complete some items on their “welcome to campus” checklist virtually in order to reduce crowding on campus.
- Accounting for any relevant quarantine and health check requirements when welcoming students and/or visitors to campus from outside Montana.
- Establish decision criteria for hosting (or not hosting) non-college/university events.
- Require all off-campus organizations scheduling non-college/university events on campus to agree to updated terms and conditions requiring campus sanitation protocols.
- Design in-person campus tours to include smaller groups that meet social distancing guidelines and restrictions on size of gathering.
- Consider greater use of online/virtual events, including instances when events are livestreamed to off-site audiences rather than hosted in front of an on-site audience.
- Consider limiting the number of non-college/university events hosted on campus.
- Consider contractual restrictions when planning for live streaming and/or online delivery of events.
- Consider ticketing policies that require advance purchase and registration to better adhere to event capacity limits and to support public health efforts at contact tracing in event of exposure.
- Consider – in conjunction with campus health, campus risk management, and local health officials – the risk-reward balance in hosting events that will bring high numbers of attendees from out of state or from known high-risk areas.
- Consider using outdoor venues if they allow for better spacing and air flow.
- Consider additional training and support for event staff to prepare them for health, safety, and audience management strategies.
- Consider additional costs associated with sanitation requirements when contracting events for non-college/university entities.
- Consider on-site messaging about health and safety at all events.
- For events hosted by student organizations, consider a greater advisory and monitoring role for faculty/staff advisors.
Note: While we have provided general planning guidelines here, this planning area will be strongly influenced by upcoming guidance established by the MUS Athletics 2020 Advisory Group and by future decisions from relevant athletics conferences (e.g. Big Sky Conference, Frontier Conference) and national organizing bodies (e.g. NCAA, NAIA).
- Conduct an assessment of the potential for COVID-19 transmission in each sport (e.g. individual vs. team sports, contact vs. non-contact sports, major spectator vs. limited spectator sports). Risk factors should be established and return to practice and competition should be based on factors including, but not necessarily limited to, any impediments to social distancing (e.g. contact between players), ball transfer, cleaning of shared equipment, and feasibility of social distancing among any spectators.
- Develop a health assessment survey for student athletes at onset of the practice and competitive season; and develop an ongoing health screening process to monitor health of student athletes at regular intervals throughout the practice and competitive season.
- Promote social distancing and enhanced cleaning in areas of congregation including training rooms, locker rooms, strength and conditioning facilities, and other team meeting areas.
- Athletics administration and sports medicine staff should follow federal, state, local, and institutional public health recommendations related to screening and testing of student-athletes and staff following team, work-related, and personal travel.
- Consider, with guidance from state and local public health authorities, the challenges and opportunities associated with a consistent COVID-19 testing and monitoring plan for student-athletes competing in inter-collegiate sports.
- Consider creation of a COVID-19 Athletics Coordination Team, which could include the athletic director or designee, head athletic trainer or designee, head team physician or designee, coaching representative, strength and conditioning representative, student health services representative, counseling services representative, a student-athlete, and a representative from the local health care system (campus medical center or local health care system).
- Consider whether travel for competition is appropriate given the current stage of the pandemic (especially at the competition location), potential isolation and quarantine measures that could arise as a result of the travel, and additional screening that may be required as a result of the travel.
- Where possible, plan to supplement delivery of in-person support services and student conduct management with alternate delivery strategies.
- Train student support staff to effectively use alternate delivery methods.
- Design staffing, facilities, scheduling, and traffic flow to mitigate health risks for students and employees during in-person delivery.
- Develop a communication strategy to inform students and the campus community about various delivery modes (e.g. in-person, online, or both), specific precautionary measures/risks, and contingency plans for remote or altered delivery for each area of student support.
- Consider education and support for students that helps them easily access and effectively use online student support services.
- Consider developing tools to assess the effectiveness of student support services being offered through different delivery methods.
- Consider revamped and expanded mental health outreach and treatment strategies, including online appointments.
- Design staffing and facility use plans to mitigate health risks for employees and
students. These plans may include:
- Redesigned physical spaces, designated traffic flow patterns, and use of physical barriers such as plexiglass where feasible.
- Adjusted staffing schedules and operational hours that allow for staggered work shifts, rotating teams in each operational area, and more social distancing for staff and students.
- Plan a strategy for reasonable work accommodations for employees with heightened risk from COVID-19 exposure.
- Where relevant, consult with employee unions as staffing strategies are developed.
- Ensure that employee work calendars comply with contractual obligations.
- For student-facing business operations (e.g. financial aid, business services, etc.) supplement in-person service with remote delivery options whenever possible, with an emphasis on phone/tablet accessibility.
- In consultation with OCHE, consider using shared services procurement with other MUS campuses when the need for new business operations technologies and services arises.
- Consider updating office/department websites to make it easier for current and prospective students to understand necessary documentation and processes.
- Develop a building/facilities usage and staffing plan that ensures adequate cleaning and sanitation, with particular attention to all high traffic areas, common areas, and restroom facilities, and develop tracking process for cleanings.
- Develop a plan for placement and monitoring of materials that promote healthy hygiene practices (refilling of sanitizers, etc.).
- Establish, as applicable, clearly communicated guidelines if there are any changes to building hours of operation or general accessibility.
- Develop a plan for visible signage that promotes social distancing and healthy hygiene practices, and clearly indicates desired traffic flow.
- Develop a communication plan that allows for timely reaction to specific cleaning needs and any needed changes to scheduling/rescheduling of space after a positive case is discovered.
- Consider developing guidance for classroom instructors and students to promote best practices for sanitizing classroom spaces in between classes (e.g. wiping down desks/workspaces with available wipes).
- Consider enhanced swipe/access technology to improve control over building traffic, to monitor access to buildings, and to assist with contact tracing if needed.
- Consider alternative egress/ingress patterns to minimize congregation in high traffic areas.
- In accordance with CDC and applicable local and state public healthy guidelines, develop and execute adequate cleaning protocols for campus vehicles and transportation hubs (e.g. campus bus stops) during prime usage hours and in between prime usage hours.
- Strongly encourage use of face coverings for employees and passengers using campus transportation and make hand sanitizer available to those entering and exiting vehicles.
- Whenever feasible, use scheduling, occupancy limits, and seating arrangements to promote social distancing on vehicles.
- For course-related trips, or trips made by student organizations (e.g. field studies), develop transportation strategies that promote social distancing while still adhering to campus regulations (e.g. use of multiple vehicles).
- Design seating and traffic flow at transportation hubs (e.g. bus stops) to allow for greater social distancing.
- If applicable, develop process for assessing and maintaining adequate safety and cleaning protocols for outside transportation vendors who are contracted to provide transportation for students and/or employees.
- Consider promoting, as practical for students and employees, transportation modes that allow for greater social distancing (e.g. bike-to-campus incentives).
- Develop campus safety and security plan that balances public health concerns and precautions with protecting student and campus community safety in accordance with federal guidelines (e.g. Clery, Title IX guidelines, etc.).
- Develop plans and protocols to maintain and protect student and employee privacy in remote, online, and blended operational environments in accordance with federal privacy guidelines (e.g. FERPA, HIPAA, etc.).
- Establish clear, student-centered guidelines for campus safety personnel who engage in enforcement of health and safety protocols.
- Consider a plan and provide training for Behavioral Intervention Teams to respond to potential increases in campus student and employee concerns via in-person, hybrid, and remote environments.
- Consider developing a specific communications plan to share all policy and procedure changes with students, employees, and community members.
- Consider how best to educate and support off-campus living groups (e.g. fraternities and sororities) in maintaining relevant health and safety measures.
- Melinda Arnold, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, MSU Billings
- Sandy Bauman, Acting Dean/CEO, Helena College
- Carina Beck, Director, Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success, Montana State University
- Les Cook, Chancellor, Montana Technological University
- Leanne Frost, Director, General Studies Division, Great Falls College MSU
- Stephanie Gray, Dean, Gallatin College Montana State University
- Jon Harbor, Executive Vice President and Provost, University of Montana
- Nicole Hazelbaker, Dean of Students, The University of Montana Western
- Dave Krueger, Dean, College of Technical Sciences, MSU Northern
- Bob Mokwa, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Montana State University
- Brock Tessman (chair), ARSA Deputy Commissioner, Montana University System
- Steve Thompson, Director of Campus Recreation, University of Montana
- Crystine Miller (staff), Director of Student Affairs and Student Engagement, Montana University System
- Rebecca Power (staff), Academic Initiatives Analyst, Montana University System
Note: In the dynamic and evolving public health situation, resources and guidelines are frequently updated. Please check resources to ensure that you are referencing the most up-to-date version. Links last updated May 29, 2020.