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Online Learning Starts Tomorrow: What to Expect

The following was sent by President Julie Sullivan to all students, faculty and staff on March 15. 

Dear students, faculty and staff,

Please take the time to read this entire note, as it contains important information for this week’s operations on campus.

As you know, tomorrow begins our temporary period of online classes to help safeguard the health and safety of our community amid the COVID-19 outbreak. A big thanks to our faculty and staff who have been hard at work over the last several days making final preparations and conducting equipment tests for the transition. If you are a student and haven’t yet visited our checklist for working remotely, please do so as soon as possible.

Before we detail the changes you can expect to see on campus tomorrow, please know the university is aware of Governor Tim Walz’s announcement today that all Minnesota K-12 schools will close by Wednesday, March 18, through at least Friday, March 27. We realize this announcement impacts our employees who have children in school. In light of this directive, I will be providing additional guidance to employees related to telecommuting and working remotely in a separate email.

Although classrooms will be empty tomorrow, campus will remain open. Here is a quick roundup of what to expect:

Two Words: Social Distancing

A key objective of online learning is maintaining social distancing practices to help reduce the chances of disease spread. Public health officials recommend keeping distances of at least six (6) feet between people. Students, faculty and staff can expect to see changes such as fewer chairs per table, less seating in smaller rooms, etc.

On Friday, Governor Walz declared a state of emergency in Minnesota and recommended canceling all events with 250 attendees or more, as well as smaller events held in crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues that do not accommodate social distancing of six feet per person. St. Thomas expects all community members to comply with this guidance. We have already canceled all events with more than 50 people. For smaller meetings and events, meeting organizers should consider whether a meeting is essential and, if it is, ensure it is held in areas that allow this social distancing. Community members are encouraged to respect the space of others (i.e., not crowding in lines or in other areas).

Accessing Buildings

  • The Anderson Student Center (ASC) will operate with slightly reduced availability, opening at 7 a.m. each day this week and closing at 9 p.m. Hours of operation during next week’s spring break will be 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Academic buildings, O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library and the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex (AARC) will operate on a normal schedule on Monday. Hours for these facilities are subject to change depending on usage level.

Dining Services

Food service will be available at the following facilities:

  • The View
  • T’s
  • Summit Marketplace

All other locations will be closed. See here for hours. Dining Services staff is removing one-third of its seats to create social distancing, using hospital-grade cleaners to disinfect surfaces and eliminating self-service stations.

More Hand-Sanitizing Stations

Expect to see additional hand-sanitizing stations on campus. Additionally, please remember to wash your hands frequently. Washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way to clean your hands. If you are not near a sink, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a good alternate option.

Shuttle Service

  • Shuttle service will run as usual on Monday. The schedule will be subject to change. Please check here for updates.

Further information will be shared, as available, throughout the week. In the meantime, please continue to refer to the Center for Well-Being’s COVID-19 online resource page for additional information such as:

And finally, above all else – please stay home if you are feeling sick.

Thank you all for your patience and attention during this time. The solidarity, strength and quick actions of our community give us confidence as we continue to manage this challenging situation.

Warm regards,

Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D.