Jump to Footer

Message from President Caprio: University Reopening Phase One


May 26, 2020

Dear Members of the Western New England University Community,

In my communication to you of May 8, 2020 regarding Fall 2020 opening of the University (See COVID-19 Information on University homepage), I announced that Western New England University is planning to be open for the fall 2020 semester. As I expressed in the section “What We Know—Safety First: While we are planning on opening as a campus community this fall, we will do so with the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff as our top priority, as it has been since we learned of COVID-19.” This guiding principle focusing on safety is coupled with our commitment to continuing to offer an unsurpassed education to all students in every program. “In that spirit, within the bounds of health considerations, we are committed to doing all that we can to maximize on-campus classes and life, given their centrality to a Western New England education as it has always been envisioned (particularly for undergraduates).”

The Governor revealed last week the Commonwealth’s Phased Plan for Reopening. The Plan states that colleges and universities are working together and with the state to “ensure a safe and gradual return to campus life,” and that in the upcoming weeks, institutions will develop their own customized reopening plans for each of the state’s phases. During phase one, which stretches through June 8 at the earliest, colleges can begin restarting some in-person functions. Institutions can repopulate research laboratories and medical, dental, veterinary, and allied health clinical education and services, and perform work necessary to prepare campuses to reopen. (All activities must observe social distancing guidance.) During phases two and three, each institution will develop its own plans for course delivery, which will likely involve a combination of in-person and remote learning to allow for social distancing on campus.

These broad guidelines in no way alter our current process and plan. In my May 8 communication I conveyed in the section “Our Process and Plan: We have assembled multiple Work Groups since the COVID-19 outbreak to evaluate and make decisions concerning all aspects of our operations, including on how we will open. Currently there are formal work groups evaluating our curriculum, health and safety standards, and our residential community. In separate communications we will communicate the details of our multifaceted plan.”

Our plan for reopening requires input and planning from many community members. For that reason, the following Work Groups were convened to develop a comprehensive phased plan for reopening. The goals of each work group are described below with members of each group listed.

Online Pedagogy and Adapted Learning Environment Work Group

The Work Group, led by Professor Curt Hamakawa, was formed so that Western New England University will be optimally prepared to reopen its campus for classes on August 31, 2020, and deliver a full curriculum that ensures a quality educational experience while taking care to protect the health and wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff. Three subgroups were formed to (a) survey current students and faculty to assess their conversion to and experience in the online environment, (b) plan for an adapted fall classroom environment under public health protocols, and (c) plan for the systematic enhancement of the University’s online programming and training. The subgroups met on their own initiative to develop plans and make recommendations in response to their charge, and each subgroup was asked to seek expertise and assistance by inviting additional faculty and staff to their teams.

It is remarkable how over 30 faculty and an equal number of staff were responsive to the invitation to work harmoniously together on very short notice and with strict deadlines. I believe that by working together with a spirit of collaboration we can reopen the campus safely and effectively.

Work Group Members
Curt Hamakawa (Chair), Anthony Caprio, Diptiman Bose, Josie Brown, Erin Buzuvis, Hossein Cheraghi, Beth Cohen, Scott Coopee, Said Dini, Matt Fox, Rob Gettens, Saeed Ghahramani, Michelle Goodfellow, Janelle Goodnight, Richard Grabiec, Bryan Gross, Katelyn Harrison, Kerri Jarzabski, Michael Johnson, Kara Kapinos, Ann Kizanis, James Knittel, ChangHoon Lee, Ken Lee, Neeraj Magotra, Karl Martini, Steve Narmontas, Kathleen Reid, Julie Richardson, Michael Rust, Christian Salmon, Sudha Setty, Sharianne Walker, Beth Welch

Subgroup A: Student and Faculty Survey of the Remote Teaching/Learning Experience
Bahadir Akcam, Tuncay Bayrak, Beth Cohen, Rob Gettens, Janelle Goodnight, Kerri Jarzabski (Chair), Kara Kapinos, Ann Kizanis, Mary Schoonmaker, Lanny Spotts

Subgroup B: Adapted Classroom Environment
Linda Chojnicki, Scott Coopee, Christopher Freitag, Michelle Goodfellow (Co-Chair), Richard Grabiec, Katelyn Harrison, Michael Johnson, James Knittel, Ken Lee (Co-Chair), Karl Martini, Kathleen Reid, Julie Richardson, Peter Varley, Adam Woodrow, Amanda Zepke

Subgroup C: Online Programming and Training
Jonathan Beagle, Sharon Benoit, Diptiman Bose, Josie Brown, Erin Buzuvis, Scott Coopee, Anita Dancs, Said Dini, Janelle Goodnight (Chair), Bryan Gross, Michael Jarvinen, Rob Kleine, ChangHoon Lee, Keri Lee, Neeraj Magotra, Steve Narmontas, Seungly Oh, Amer Qouneh, Michael Rust, Christian Salmon, Mary Schoonmaker, Sudha Setty, Lanny Spotts, Sharianne Walker, Quan Wei, Beth Welch

Medical, Health, and Operations Work Group

As we consider the fall 2020 opening this Work Group is: (a) to examine and determine options regarding safety and wellness for the entire campus -- faculty, staff, students and visitors, including testing, healthcare protocol, resources; (b) learn about campus and community concerns (physical and mental) as we plan for the fall and how to mitigate and/or inform the campus community (including

parents and families) about the resources available to assist, (c) identify modifications that we may have to plan for regarding social distancing in co-curricular events, large gatherings, student programs, activities, sports events, etc.

There are two subgroups that have been formed: 1.) Return to Work and 2.) Residential and Student Life.

Work Group Members
Jeanne Hart-Steffes (Chair), Kathy Reid, Joanne Ollson, Arin Whitman, Melissa Mattison, Jason Seacat, Gerard Roeder, Caitlin Daley, Ryan Begin, Wayne Carpenter, Benjamin Kern, Mathew Labranche, Kerri Jarzabski, Andrea St. James, Dale-Marie Dahlke, Alexandra Lyman, Jenna Lussier, Faith Leahy, Adam Woodrow, Christopher Freitag, Beth Hill, Gina Lovotti, Melissa Lambert

Additional members of the Return to Campus Work sub-group include Donna-Rae Kenneally, Peter Varley, and Beverly Dwight.

Expanded Emergency Management Response Team (EMRT)

In order to bring some overall coordination to the various aspects of reopening the University, the EMRT has been called into service again, after a two-month hiatus. Under the original Emergency Response Plan, the VP for Finance and Administration chairs the Team at my direction. Its membership has been expanded, now including representatives from every aspect of the University that might need to be coordinated in making Work Group recommendations happen. This group will get things done to realize the recommendations of the Work Groups. Basic directions must be communicated promptly so that there is sufficient time to place orders, to order and install things like cameras, Plexiglas, or software, to procure testing materials, to determine how best to procure wipes, sanitizers, etc. The University has already begun to undertake certain actions of this type; for example, purchasing 10,000 cloth masks for students, faculty, and staff.

EMRT Work Group Members
Richard Wagner (Chair), Anthony Caprio, Hossein Cheraghi, Scott Coopee, Michael Duncan, Beverly Dwight, Jeanie Forray, Christopher Freitag, Joseph Gerard, Saeed Ghahramani, Bryan Gross, Curt Hamakawa, Kerri Jarzabski, Linda Jones, James Knittel, Julie LeBeau, Barbara Moffat, Melissa Motyka, Joanne Ollson, Kathleen Reid, Gerard Roeder, Julie Richardson, Sudha Setty, Cheryl Smith, Jeanne Steffes, Sharianne Walker, Adam Woodrow

University Reopening Plan Phase One

The initial stage of reopening will include returning departmental office staff to campus with a maximum return of 50% of staff in a department. In keeping with state guidance, no building will exceed 25% of maximum occupancy level specified in any certificate of occupancy or similar permit. Work schedules can be adjusted to ensure that offices do not exceed the occupancy levels indicated. These adjustments may include staggered work shifts, rotating work teams, and schedule changes.

It is important to understand the risk associated with contracting COVID-19 cannot be completely eliminated. Employees who are required to return to work will be made aware of the potential risks and

receive training on how to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Employees with CDC listed underlying medical conditions and employees over the age of 65 will not automatically be restricted from returning to the workplace but are encouraged to stay home or arrange an alternate work assignment when possible.

Return to Work on Campus Process

  1. Department Heads and Supervisors will evaluate all positions and determine which employees can continue to work remotely.
  2. Each Division will provide Human Resources with a list of employees who will be expected to return to work on campus on or before July 15, 2020. This list should be received by Human Resources by June 22, 2020.
  3. Supervisors will contact each employee and notify them of their return to work on campus date.
  4. Employees who have been identified for return to work on campus but express a desire to continue to work remotely (due to age or underlying medical condition) should be directed to Human Resources for guidance.
  5. Employees who are returning to campus on or before July 15, 2020 will be required to participate in a training session and will not be able to return to the workplace until the training is completed.

Return to Work Protocols for Phase One will focus on Social Distancing, Hygiene Protocols, Cleaning and Disinfecting and Training

  • Social distancing is defined as maintaining six feet of distance from others when possible. Social Distancing Markers will be installed in high traffic areas and areas where waiting in line are customary.
  • All employees will be provided with 3 masks which must be worn when employees cannot be at least six feet apart from anyone in the vicinity, inside or outdoors—in other words, masks must be worn by all faculty and staff working on campus whenever physical distancing is not possible or may be difficult to maintain.
  • All offices will be equipped with hand sanitizer as well as antibacterial soap in all restrooms. Antibacterial wipes or paper towels with cleaning solution will be available to employees to wipe door handles, copy machines, light switches, and other high touch areas throughout the day.
  • Kitchens and coffee makers may be used but must be wiped thoroughly after each use.
  • All office areas, and restrooms will be cleaned by the housekeeping staff once a day (either day or evening).
  • Offices will be rearranged to accommodate six feet of space when possible. If offices cannot be reconfigured partitions or cubicles will be installed.
  • Windows and doors should be opened when possible to improve ventilation. Ventilation in all buildings will be evaluated prior to reopening in August.
  • Most offices and buildings will remain locked with entry allowed by appointment only and with visitors wearing proper personal protective equipment (mask).
  • No visitors are allowed in office buildings without an appointment, this includes vendors and family members.
  • Signage will be displayed in all work locations outlining mandatory safety standards for workplaces.
  • Employees experiencing illness, especially symptoms associated with COVID-19 or the flu should not come to work. Supervisors may direct employees who appear to be ill, to Health Services or to go home.
  • Large meetings and gatherings will not be approved during this initial reentry period. No more than ten people can meet in person and must be in a meeting room large enough to allow participants to be six feet apart.
  • Zoom and Fuze video conferencing should be the primary method for all face to face meetings.

Future protocols being discussed by the Community Healthcare and Wellness work group include:

  • Temperature checks at the start of each work day as the percentage of employees working on campus increases
  • COVID-19 testing and antibody testing for all community members
  • Development of an employee survey to better understand all concerns regarding the return to campus

The University plans to reopen in a phased approach and will continue to provide in depth information about each Phase of reopening. Many supplies including PPE will be purchased before and after the campus is reopened. In order to meet industry requirements, and to ensure the safety of all community members, purchases must be made through Central Purchasing.

An Almost Final Word from Me!

I appreciate everything that so many of our faculty and staff are doing to ensure a successful and safe reopening of Western New England University. It will be necessary for all in our campus community to be flexible, to adapt and adopt behavioral norms and practices that protect the health of every member of the community, and to accept inconveniences that will inevitably present themselves. In the coming days and months there will remain uncertainties. All plans are subject to changes, but we must nonetheless plan for all possible scenarios, taking facts into consideration. This includes being prepared for the possibility of an unexpected, severe new outbreak of COVID-19, particularly if we as individual citizens in this processing of reopening our country do not recall the social contract we all have with each other – the responsibility to respect and care for each other’s safety, health, and well-being. I have such confidence in all of you to do the right thing for our society, our University community, and for each other. My twenty-four years here have caused me to have a strong belief and confidence in you. And know that I will continue to keep a close eye on you even after I have left—always looking at you with admiration and affection. There are many challenges ahead, and I know you will confront these and respond to them with determination, conviction, and courage.

Anthony S. Caprio