Phased Reopening of Campus
Dear Faculty and Staff,
It’s been just about two and a half months since our shift to remote teaching and working due to COVID-19. Now, as the calendar turns to June, we stand just about two and a half months away from our anticipated return of students to campus for fall classes.
To prepare for the fall, and to develop a back-to-campus plan that makes sense for Bentley, the Cabinet has been working closely with your colleagues serving on our Emergency Management Group under the direction of Geoff Bartlett, our director of emergency management. The guidelines we implement for Bentley are and will always be driven directly by Governor Charlie Baker’s four-phase framework for reopening Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Higher Education Working Group’s proposed guidelines for reopening colleges and universities. The Massachusetts High Tech Council has also compiled detailed, helpful research from a broad range of governmental and scientific resources on best practices for reopening businesses.
We are currently in Phase 1 of Governor Baker’s plan, which allows businesses to begin reopening with strict restrictions and occupancy limitations in place. The Massachusetts Higher Education Working Group has recommended that, given the diversity of colleges and universities across the Commonwealth, each school should design unique reopening plans that work for the size and design of the college or university, within the parameters of the working group’s and state’s overarching guidelines.
At Bentley, we have started bringing a small number of people back on a staggered basis to keep the number of individuals on a floor and in the buildings very limited. These individuals who are back on campus will help us evaluate and fine tune our new workplace guidelines and operations to ensure that we can work together safely. Our on-campus headcount remains far below the maximum threshold currently allowed by the state. If COVID-19 cases remain in control, Massachusetts will transition to Phase 2 on June 8, at the earliest. The full details of how businesses and higher education may operate in Phase 2 are expected to be released this week.
Vice presidents will be working with faculty and staff to provide direct guidance and notice of when and how various offices will repopulate. The exact order of operations will be based on university needs and job responsibilities. As we have mentioned before, we recognize that balancing work and family is challenging during this time and we will continue to encourage both flexibility and fairness as we begin to return to campus. Each division will develop specific timelines and expectations with its vice president.
The Emergency Management Group has been hard at work helping to ensure the health and safety of our community when we do return. Three workgroups have been analyzing aspects of reopening campus, including Administrative Controls (e.g., occupancy limits in shared spaces, staggered schedules), Physical Distancing and Engineering Controls (e.g., rearranged furniture, installation of Plexiglas barriers, ventilation changes), and Personal Mitigation (e.g., handwashing), and detailed recommendations from each group are being made to the Cabinet this week for final review. Their work has been so valuable, and we are thankful to all who have spent considerable time on this effort over the last few months.
In addition, we continue to research and review industry-wide best practices and seek advice on ways to keep our classrooms and offices safe. The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article last week exploring ideas and options for an in-person but socially distant campus experience. These examples, and many others, will help inform our planning for the fall. And as always, your ideas, thoughts and feedback are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve already received and responded to many emails with ideas to consider, and we encourage you to continue sending more!
We will continue to monitor the state’s approach to reopening and before you return, additional details, training materials and best practices will be shared within your division. Please note that you are required to watch this video from the World Health Organization before returning to campus, which includes best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Remember that state and city regulations require face masks to be worn any time you are on campus for the foreseeable future, so please make sure you have a proper personal face covering with you at all times. Please also remember to keep six feet of separation from colleagues whenever possible for appropriate social distancing measures. Finally, please review the attached document, which will be posted in campus buildings upon your return, highlighting some of the measures we are taking to keep you safe.
And of course, please continue to monitor your health daily. Keeping our campus community healthy and safe begins with self-care, appropriate personal protection, and good, regular hand washing with soap.
We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we navigate the coming weeks.
The Bentley University Cabinet
Donna Maria Blancero