We hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and that your new year is off to a happy and healthy start. Here in Standish, we are busy planning for the return to living and learning on campus – and getting very excited to welcome everyone back.

A couple of weeks ago, we sent an email previewing our return for the spring semester, and promised more details to come. This communication contains those important details, so please read carefully and take note of any items that apply to you. We have included information for SJC students, families, faculty, and staff so everyone has the full picture of how we’re proceeding- but you should expect to receive more targeted communications in the coming weeks.

Our most important message is this: the country, the state of Maine, and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine are all in a radically different COVID environment than we were in late August, the last time we returned to campus. Cases are spiraling upward. The virus is spreading more easily in cold, dry air and because of new mutations. Vaccine-enabled herd immunity will likely not happen until the fall.

And while the landscape has changed, and our responses have changed with it, our most important guidelines remain exactly the same: We must wear masks. We must socially distance. We must not gather in groups. We must wash our hands and sanitize our spaces. These are the most important weapons we have, and we must use them if we are going to help each other stay together on campus. In the coming weeks, you will be informed of new policies to support us all in maintaining these essential community health practices.

Read on for more details.
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For Everyone

Spring semester classes will begin on Tuesday, January 19th on campus (for Phase 1 students – see schedule below) and via our HyFlex system (for all other campus students).

We are modifying our wastewater testing strategy to create more reliable and actionable trendlines in this unique early warning system. Wastewater will be tested three times per week at both the campus-wide and residence hall levels. Combined with our new testing regime described below, we are aiming to weave a denser safety net with which to catch and stop the virus.

For Residential Students

Our residential student move-in will be phased over three weeks, which accomplishes key goals for the College as we enter the semester amidst the peak of COVID-19 infections to date, a new Christmas surge of infections, and the more highly contagious strain of the virus that is now spreading.

Colleges across the region and the nation have chosen different methods of managing campus health and safety at the outset of this semester. The following plan is the one that offers the best opportunity to keep Saint Joseph’s College safe, with students living and learning on our campus for the duration of the year.

The three components are:

  1. Move-In. Weekly move-in phases for residential students, generally by class.
  2. Testing before your return. Negative test results required for resident and commuter students, and some faculty and staff, before returning to the physical campus, for any reason. Results must be from within 72 hours, or as close as possible before your arrival to the College.
  3. Testing on campus. Students will be rapid tested twice in the first week at our Health Center, then weekly for the remainder of the semester on a reliable, consistent basis. We’ve expanded our testing plan to include the faculty and staff who will be on campus. These employees will also be tested weekly, and others bi-weekly based on position risk level. Positive rapid test results will be confirmed immediately with a 24-hour PCR test.

This strategy allows for a less dense and more controlled start – and a good start makes a good finish much more likely. The College’s Health and Wellness Center will test students twice during their first week in a manageable, orderly fashion, with the least amount of exposure possible to other students, faculty, and staff.

In the event that a student arrives on campus with a negative test, but then tests positive at the HWC, it allows our staff to identify close contacts, and quarantine and isolate appropriately before subsequent groups of students return.

Please note that our students will not be permitted to enter campus without a negative test – no matter where they are coming from. Even our students coming to the College from within Maine will need a negative test result in-hand to enter campus.  Similar to our setup in September, our Campus Safety Comfort Zone will be there to greet you and register those test results.

Our phased student return schedule:

Phase 1: Monday, January 18th
Class of 2024 (Freshmen) return to campus with a negative test result.
Entry Testing occurs: 10:00am-4:00pm on Monday 1/18, and 9:00am-11:00am on Tuesday 1/19
Phase 1 students will be tested again 10:00am-11:30am on Friday 1/22

Phase 2: Sunday, January 24th
Class of 2021 (Seniors) return to campus with a negative test result.
Entry Testing occurs: 10:00am-4:00pm on Sunday 1/24, and 9:00am-11:00am on Monday 1/25
Phase 2 students will be tested again 10:00am-11:30am on  Thursday, 1/28

Stage 3: Sunday, January 31st
Class of 2023 (Sophomores) return to campus with a negative test result.
Entry Testing occurs: 10:00am-4:00pm on Sunday 1/31, and 9:00am-11:00am on Monday 2/1
Phase 3 students will be tested again 10:00am-11:30am on Thursday, 2/4

Stage 4: Sunday, February 7th
Class of 2022 (Juniors) return to campus with a negative test result.
Entry Testing occurs: 10:00am-4:00pm on Sunday 2/7, and 9:00am-11:00am on Monday 2/8
Phase 4 students will be tested again 10:00am-11:30am on Thursday, 2/11

For Commuter Students

Our Commuter students will be permitted to begin in-person classes on Tuesday, January 19th, regardless of your year in school, as long as they are able to produce a negative test result when they come to campus for the first time for classes in January.

If you’re a commuter student, please check in with our staff at the Comfort Zone with your initial negative result.  Prior to the start of classes, you will be sent a separate email with instructions on how to set up your weekly testing with the Health Center, and your options are as follows:

Monday:  7pm-8:30pm
Tuesday:  10am-12:30pm
Wednesday: 2:30pm-3:45pm
Thursday: 3:30pm-5:30pm
Friday:  8am-9am

For Essential Student Workers in Critical Roles

You will receive (if you have not already) an invitation to return to campus on January 18th as part of the Phase 1 student group if your position has been approved for the early return.

For All Student Workers

You can plan to resume your student employment when you return to campus as part of this phased return process.

For Nursing Students

First-year Nursing students, as well as commuting Nursing students, will return for on-campus instruction on Tuesday, January 19th.  All other resident (campus housing) Nursing students will return to campus housing on Sunday, January 24th, and begin on-campus instruction on Monday, January 25th.

For Faculty and Staff

All faculty and staff who have not been working on campus since the end of the fall semester  and will be returning to campus must get tested before returning to their office or classroom. You have the choice of getting tested at an off-campus location (within 72 hours of returning to SJC) or on campus at the Health and Wellness Center Friday January 15th from 10am-1pm. Negative tests results must be provided for your return if you use an offsite location. You can send electronic copies of your negative test results to hhogeback@sjcme.edu.

This semester we will mandate weekly on-campus testing of any faculty and staff that fall within the Medium or High levels on OSHA’s risk assessment. Your supervisor will discuss this testing requirement with you if this designation applies. Please help our Health and Wellness Center staff: set a time that works for you, commit to it weekly, and let the Health and Wellness Center know in advance if you can’t make it.

We will also mandate random surveillance testing of lower risk employee categories. This level of testing will happen every other week, and cover the faculty and staff working on campus on a bi-weekly basis.

Employees in non-essential departments with telecommute agreements will now be required to remain off-campus indefinitely. This follows the recommendation of Governor Mills and the Maine CDC to prevent the spread of the virus during this period of high infection rates. In extraordinary cases, telecommuters must make special arrangements with Human Resources and seek pre-approval in order to access campus, and providing negative test results will be part of the process.

Given the strain on our Health and Wellness Center staff, employees may only receive a test if they have been scheduled or contacted. You may not come in whenever you want, but there are plenty of free off-campus options, including Westbrook Public Safety and many local Walgreens locations.

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We appreciate your attention to this information-packed message, and your ongoing support as we move into the next phase of college life during a pandemic. As always, please send any questions or concerns to coronaquestions@sjcme.edu.

Last semester, Saint Joseph’s College fared much better than many colleges and universities because we remained #MonkStrong. Together we can make this semester even better, by committing to being #MonkStronger. Have a great remainder of your break, and we’ll see you soon.

Thank you,
The Pandemic Response Team

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