Spring Semester 2021
As with so many other aspects of college life, the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic have changed how we must approach and plan for the remainder of this academic year. Together with the entire university leadership team, we have evaluated factors that have contributed to our university’s low prevalence of COVID-19 cases, the experiences of other colleges and universities, state of Vermont guidance, and the realities of the upcoming winter season in Vermont to formulate our Spring semester operational plan.
Our planning is also mindful of the compounding challenges of the flu season during this pandemic. Reducing transmission of both influenza and coronavirus during peak flu activity time is to the benefit of all of our community. With that in mind, we strongly encourage all students to have a flu vaccine as soon as possible to reduce flu on campus. The health and well-being of our university family, and the central Vermont community, continues to be our top priority and each and every one of us plays a vital role in our ongoing success. While there are specifics of the Spring semester that still need to be determined, the major components of the Spring re-opening are presented here for your planning and expectations:
Spring Semester/University Calendar: A significant challenge for the coming months is the availability of indoor spaces for classrooms, dining, and other activities. We will continue to facilitate appropriate physical distancing. After careful consideration and guidance from the state of Vermont, we have decided on the following changes to the university calendar: https://www.norwich.edu/registrar/all-of-registrar/2478-2021-spring-academic-calendar.
Spring Semester Classes: The Spring semester will begin for all students with online classes starting Monday, January 11th. All classes will be held in an online format, either synchronous or asynchronous, from Monday, January 11th through Monday, February 1st. Starting Tuesday, February 2nd, classes will be offered in a combination of remote, hybrid, and in-person formats for the remainder of the Spring semester.
Spring Break: Given the priority of the health and safety of our Norwich community, the traditional Spring Break week will not be offered this semester in order to minimize the comings and goings of students, faculty, and staff. Students will have a total of five respite days throughout the Spring semester, as shown on the Registrar’s website.
Finals, Commencement, and Commissioning: Finals week will begin Sunday, April 25th and Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 1st, either virtually or in person, depending on public health conditions and State of Vermont guidance at the time. Regardless of format, we will plan special activities to celebrate the Class of 2021. Commissioning is planned for Sunday, May 2nd and will be accomplished per DoD/ROTC guidance. Spring Semester Arrival: While there remains the potential for the following dates to change, new and returning students should plan to arrive, and be medically screened, tested and in-processed as follows:
- Higher Risk groups requiring Quarantine under State of Vermont Guidelines (https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel ) (This includes students who must travel via commercial transportation or are unable to complete a home quarantine prior to arrival)
- Friday, January 15, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (NOTE: this is also a respite day with no academic classes scheduled)
- Saturday, January 16, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
- Lower Risk Non-Quarantine Groups (students who did not leave the state during the break or students from non-green areas that are able to complete a home quarantine and arrive via POV) will be tested upon arrival. Lower risk students will be tested again 7 days after the beginning of face-to-face classes on Tuesday, February 9th.
- Wednesday, January 27, 4:00 - 8:00 p.m.
- Thursday, January 28, 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.
- Friday, January 29, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
- Saturday, January 30, 10: 00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
* Please note that if you are a commuter student who does not spend the winter break in Vermont, you must arrive back in the state by January 22nd in order to complete seven days of quarantine prior to testing on January 30th.
We urge all students who are traveling by plane or other public transportation to purchase refundable tickets as weather conditions may warrant a change in arrival dates.
Arrival Operations and In-Processing: Arrival health screenings and COVID-19 testing is planned to be conducted in the Plumley Armory gymnasium. Students will progress through screening, testing, and move-in as they experienced in August except that a portion of the screening will be indoors. You will receive additional communication in early December with your arrival requirements, so please stay connected over the winter break.
Parents, family members, and other visitors will be required to remain in vehicles through the duration of the student’s arrival screening and COVID-19 testing. Students should arrive to campus with no more than two adults. Adults can assist their student with unloading, but may not enter residential buildings to assist with move-in, nor tour campus. You will get an opportunity for a final hug in farewell before you drive away, but you will be asked to only do so briefly and to remain within the vicinity of your vehicle, reducing contact with other families, students and arrival staff.
COVID-19 Testing: All students will be required to have a day-0 test. All residential students will be tested within 48 hours of arrival. Students will be asked to limit activity outside of their rooms until their day-0 test results are returned (expected within 24-48 hours from test date). All commuter students will be tested upon arrival as outlined in the above Non-Quarantine Group Arrival and COVID-19 testing schedule. Students will be tested again once they have completed quarantine or after seven days from their arrival day test.
Students and employees will participate in recurring surveillance testing through the duration of the Spring 2021 semester at no charge. We will carefully monitor regional and local trends and administer tests as the situation warrants and according to public health guidance.
Any student with a positive test will be relocated to specific isolation housing with ongoing medical, emotional, dining, and residential life team support. Contact tracing and subsequent testing of individuals identified as a contact will be managed by the Vermont Department of Health.
When a student has symptoms that indicate the need for a test to identify the COVID-19 virus should be performed, a test will be administered. When a student is identified as having a positive test, the student will be required to isolate, and the student’s close contacts will be notified as outlined above.
Winter/Spring Sports: It is unclear at this time whether winter and spring sports athletes will be permitted to participate in competitions. Winter athletes will arrive on scheduled arrival days according to whether they are required to quarantine. Teams will likely be able to begin practicing on or about Tuesday, January 26th. We are in continuous contact with other schools and our affiliated athletic conferences regarding potential athletic competition, and will post final decisions as soon as they are available.
Residential Student Experience: We remain committed to our promise that students who were asked to study remotely in the fall semester will be welcomed back on campus for the Spring term. Any student who wishes to continue with studies remotely throughout the Spring 2021 semester will be afforded this opportunity.
Student Survey: In early October 2020 students received a survey from Student Affairs asking for their preference for on campus versus remote study. Though not binding, we are asking all students who have not already done so to complete the survey immediately.
The Academic Affairs and Student Affairs team will review the results of the survey to inform their communications to students who will be required to study remotely. Students who are required to study remotely will be contacted by Friday, October 30th, 2020.
Of note, Corps of Cadets students who were remote in the Fall semester are expected to be on campus in the Spring semester to remain in good standing for their MCV degree and junior ring, unless there are concerns relating to on-campus study.
Similar to Fall operations, residential students will begin the Spring 2021 semester in Phase 1, meaning that students will be restricted to campus. Travel off campus will be allowed for specific medical, mandatory academic, and mandatory government requirements with prior approval by the Commandant or Residence Life staff.
Monitoring Conditions: As always, our decisions are and will be guided by the latest scientific research and advice from federal, state, and local health officials. While we expect that Vermont will maintain a low prevalence of COVID-19 into the spring, the Vermont Department of Health predicts there will be some uptick in cases as seen most recently throughout our state and in public schools. We also do not yet know what conditions will be like across the United States, and winter will present some new challenges that will require us to be even more vigilant. The colder weather will mean that all of us will have to spend more time indoors, where it is more difficult to maintain physical distancing and where the virus can spread more easily. We must do everything we can to keep our campus de-densified and limit transmission, and we absolutely cannot let down our guard. We call upon everyone to give heightened attention to wearing masks, physical distancing and sanitizing. Every member of the University community and visitors will be required to wear cloth face covering/masks over their nose and mouth as noted in our University policies. Daily health screening will also continue.
Please join me in thanking everyone who has worked so hard over the past months to create the plans and protocols necessary to comply with the health and safety guidelines to open and successfully operate our campus this fall. We will follow the same discipline and rigor for the spring semester as together we are making this academic year possible. Offering an in-person residential and educational experience is central to our mission. We are committed to offering our unique academic and leadership experiences as long as we can proceed safely. If and as necessary, and pending the guidance of the State of Vermont and the CDC, we will be prepared to convert to entirely remote instruction.
Yours in Service,
Norwich Together, Norwich Forever!
Mark C. Anarumo, PhD
Col, USAF (Ret) President