May 2020 – Drew University intends to welcome students back to campus for the fall semester beginning August 16, with an on-time start of classes August 24, the University’s president, MaryAnn Baenninger, announced in letters to the Drew community. The semester’s instruction and exam period will end as scheduled; however, the calendar will be adjusted to accommodate an early move-out prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University sent students home in mid-March to complete the spring semester via remote instruction. Drew also cancelled study abroad programs and on-campus summer programming through August 7, though its SummerTerm program is operating virtually. In her announcement, President Baenninger said the University is “determined and enthusiastic” about its intention to resume on-campus operations for the fall, noting that all plans will be dictated in part by any executive orders from the New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, and/or New Jersey’s progress in its reopening plan.
“Our goal, while upholding very high health and safety standards as our first priority, is to provide an authentic campus experience that is rich with the hallmarks of a Drew education—meaningful, personalized, relationship-based learning and living, even in the face of a pandemic,” President Baenninger wrote. “Our plan to achieve that goal includes an effort to reduce uncertainty, while remaining flexible and nimble during this quickly evolving health crisis.”
The plan for the re-opening of campus is actively being developed by Drew’s Open Campus Task Force, made up of members of senior leadership and the campus community. Building upon the experiences of the spring, the group is preparing a phased approach for a safe return to campus operations in keeping with best public health practices and guidance from federal and state government, and through the expertise and leadership of the group, including members of Drew’s accredited campus Health Center team.
The plan—conceived for students, faculty and staff—includes social distancing practices, “family unit” living protocols for residence halls, monitoring and tracking, face covering requirements, dining plan and policy changes, outbreak containment and strict attention to disinfection and clean environments. To address any possible scenario, including an outbreak on campus, the University has designated quarantine and isolation locations, a “stay at home at Drew” approach and, in the unlikely event they are needed, evacuation protocols. Per established practice and in cooperation with local health authorities, students who are able to return home to quarantine or isolate will be required to do so.
Starting with incoming first-year students and transfer students, students will move on campus during a staggered three-week period beginning August 16. This practice allows for maximum attention to health and safety and will also be applied to campus move-out later in the semester.
Classes will begin on time, on August 24. For the first three weeks of the semester, all instruction will be delivered through virtual platforms in order to create a transitional period to adjust to the new normal of life on campus. During these three weeks, residential life and other campus activities will be face-to-face.
In-person instruction will begin September 14. From then through November 20, the University intends to have as much face-to-face learning as possible, with “the same meaningful faculty-student interactions and small class sizes as always,” said President Baenninger. Drew is preparing for a variety of scenarios in order to ensure the needs of all community members, including those of dedicated faculty and staff, are met.
In order to reduce movement from and back to campus, and to decrease the risk of importation of COVID-19 to campus, on-campus residency will end Thanksgiving week, and the academic calendar will be adjusted to accommodate a staggered move-out of campus housing during that week, as mentioned above, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. To complete the semester, post-Thanksgiving classes and the exam period will take place remotely.
President Baenninger reminded the community that the “quickly evolving nature of the pandemic requires us to be nimble and flexible in our planning and in our return to on-campus living and learning. By developing plans for various scenarios, we can promise you a standard of care and instruction, no matter the shape of the semester.”