With another class of Samford graduates sent forth to bring about positive outcomes in the world, we turn our attention to planning for the next school year. Unsurprisingly, part of that conversation seeks to anticipate the environment around COVID-19 and our ability to return prudently to an environment to which we are more accustomed. This planning reflects on lessons of the past year; incorporates the ever-evolving universe of data and health guidelines; and, balances our desire for “normalcy” with the reality that COVID will continue to be an ongoing circumstance to be managed at some level.
We have outlined a transition plan to the fall. Given extensive modifications to our campus and daily processes, pending legislative action, variability in vaccination rates, and evolving guidelines from health professionals, our plan cannot (and should not) be instantaneous nor rigid. Rather, we expect to phase in provisions using Commencement, Summer 1, Summer 2 and Fall as markers. Even then, we anticipate modifications throughout the summer as the landscape further develops.
Two questions are reasonably and most frequently asked: where do we stand now?; and, where do we expect to be in the fall? A few highlights are below:
As of May 10, changes from the Spring semester include:
- Masking anywhere outdoors is optional provided reasonable distance can be maintained between individuals;
- Indoor-masking is still required in shared spaces unless a) it is a meeting only among Samford employees; b) everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated; and c) the meeting takes place in a space that allows for reasonable distancing among attendees. Of course, masks may be worn by anyone choosing to do so and no one should be made to feel uncomfortable for their decision;
- We are beginning to transition indoor facilities to our fall configurations. Despite placement of furniture, physical distancing may still be required. If so, signage in the space will indicate this: and,
- All employees have commenced returning to an on-campus work presence.
Come the fall, we currently anticipate moving toward the following:
- Masking will be optional in most indoor spaces;
- Classrooms and most indoor spaces will be arranged in pre-COVID configurations;
- Group sizes will not be limited and we expect normal social and athletic activities for Samford sponsored events;
- Outside groups with whom we have a pre-existing relationship will be permitted and scheduled on a space-available basis;
- We will retain return-to-campus testing, sentinel testing (albeit at a substantially reduced level), with focus testing as needed or requested;
- COVID19Health will remain operational to facilitate easy and early reporting; contract tracers will follow up with any cases;
- All employees and students will be required to re-sign our Assumption of Risk Statement;
- Vaccination for employees and students will be encouraged but not required. Please note: pending legislation before the Alabama legislature prohibits any requirement as long as vaccines remain under Emergency Use Authorization.
There are many fine points not addressed here and as previously noted, the landscape is changing constantly. As we’ve attempted to do all year, we will continue to evolve as needed and we will respond appropriately if required. Please look forward to further updates as we move through the summer.
With Best Regards, Colin
Colin M. Coyne, Ed.D., M.M.
Chief Strategy Officer
Office of the President