November 16, 2020

Greetings Spelman Community,

For the past several weeks, the 50-person Spelman College Task Force on the Path Forward has assembled to determine a recommendation for the College’s spring 2021 plans and beyond. Even as planning has been underway, the course of the pandemic has worsened. As was anticipated, with the arrival of flu season, cold weather and our retreat indoors, the rates of infection and hospitalizations are rising.

Our Task Force has focused its planning on the future. In so doing, they have kept three priorities top of mind:
We are sharing our intended plans with you more than two months ahead of the Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, start of the spring 2021 semester to give you time to plan and prepare, acknowledging that if public health conditions do not improve, our plans could change.

The recommendations of the Task Force have been informed by science, data analysis, public health guidance and our community’s need to begin transitioning back to a campus experience. As a result of their work, Spelman is preparing for a low density, hybrid model when classes resume in the spring. Our intent is to move forward with some in-person teaching and learning with safety as our number one priority.

Our plans are based on Spelman’s ability to monitor several health metrics, our faith that our community will adhere to health and safety protocols and the knowledge that we may need to pivot back to remote learning if the data worsens. We are moving cautiously so that we can begin the process of reuniting some students, and faculty and staff members in a safe residential, classroom and community environment.

As in the past, our plans were made in concert with our Atlanta University Center Consortium partner institutions, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine. You will learn that, primarily because the size of our campuses varies, some measures across our institutions differ. Nonetheless, we have collaborated to ensure that our collective communities will have a safe experience as we all move forward with some level of re-population of our campuses.

Spelman’s Task Force has determined that we can support 350 students in the residence halls. First-year students, seniors and some student leaders will be given first priority for residing on campus. The Division of Student Affairs is developing an application to reside on campus and a process for selection.

The balance of students will continue to learn remotely. To support the students living in the residence halls, there will be a select number of faculty and staff members on campus for a total population that is about 30 percent of our normal operating capacity.

Students living in the residence halls will need to adhere to guidelines, including:

Spelman students living off campus will be able to enter campus for events (up to the campus low-density re-population capacity) and for in person classes. However, because faculty members will be given the option to elect to teach in-person or remotely, all students should be prepared to take classes online. If classes are conducted in-person, faculty members may rotate students on different class days to satisfy class size limits to achieve a low-density teaching and learning environment.

In general, each member of the Spelman community will have to personally commit to stringent protective measures to maintain safety, including
·     universal testing of students, faculty
and staff members, and recurring vendors
·     required mask wearing - in
doors and outdoors - in all public spaces, classes and gatherings
·     daily symptom checking
·     physical distancing
·     frequent handwashing

You will learn that Morehouse and Clark Atlanta are bringing back higher numbers of students. Both schools have more residence hall space and larger campuses. Spelman, a 40-acre campus, conducted an in-depth analysis of space in residence halls, classrooms and all other facilities to identify safe density levels and determined what is best for our physical environment. We also considered the College’s ability to provide not only space in residence halls but isolation and quarantine space, as well as the necessity to maintain physical distancing and adhere to all medical protocols.

We understand that this is not the news that most of you wanted to hear. We are all eager to return to campus. Please keep in mind, however, that the spring semester provides the opportunity for us to move from a fully virtual environment (Phase 1) to
a low density model (Phase 2). As we move towards summer and fall of next year and with continued news of improved conditions, and preventive and treatment measures, we anticipate transitioning to Phase 3 and Phase 4 of our re-population plans.

We are continuing to flesh out the specifics of our academic and safety plans for the spring. What we can confirm are the details in the Frequently Asked Questions below. Please be on the lookout for an invitation to a town hall where we expect to have more information to share.

The entire Spelman faculty and staff is looking forward to welcoming all our students back to campus when it is safe. Until then, we will continue moving through the phases, carefully monitoring the health metrics, following the guidance of public health experts, and adhering to safety protocols. And we will keep you close in our hearts until we are all on our beautiful campus together again.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College

Spring 2021 Frequently Asked Questions

How are students and faculty and staff members going to be kept safe?
Spelman will implement a proactive health and safety protocol designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Plans include the following:
·         Monitoring, Testing, Contact Tracing, Isolating and Quarantining. Spelman is collaborating with the members of the AUC to implement rigorous health and safety protocols guided by respected public health guidance, data analysis and science. Assisted by epidemiologists and public health experts, the College will implement a series of safety measures including daily symptom tracking, frequent surveillance testing, isolation for those who have tested positive, quarantine for those who may have been exposed, and contact tracing to identify others who may have come in contact with those infected or exposed. Students will also have access to campus student health services, including the newly opened AUC Student Health Center on Lee Street.
·         Mandatory Masks. In accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, masks will be required for anyone in a class, gathering, meeting or public indoor and outdoor spaces on campus. Masks will not be required when persons are by themselves in residence hall rooms or private offices.
·         Handwashing, Hand Sanitizer, Cleaning and General Disinfecting. Spelman community members continue to be encouraged to wash hands frequently. In addition, hand sanitizing stations are readily accessible at locations across campus. Furthermore, enhanced and more frequent disinfecting protocols for all buildings have been implemented.
·         Physical Distancing and Limits on Gathering Size. Physical distancing continues to be encouraged on campus. This includes limitations on gathering sizes and reductions in the number of people allowed to occupy various spaces and buildings.
·         Density Limitations. Fewer people will be present on campus this spring as in-person instruction is focused on specific cohorts of students. Spelman expects to have about 350 students in the residence halls. To support the students, there will be a select number of faculty and staff members on campus for a total population that is about 30 percent of normal operating capacity.
·         Dining. Changes will be made to dining services to limit the possibility of COVD-19 exposure.

Are there proactive health precautions students and faculty and staff members should take before returning?
Before returning to campus, each member of the Spelman community will be required to:
·         Present a negative COVID-19 test result
·         Participate in a risk assessment training module
·         Submit a "COVID-19 free" declaration
·         Sign community pledge to maintain safe practices for the health of the campus community.

What are the COVID-19 testing procedures?
Testing for COVID-19 can reveal an individual’s health status at a point in time. Though no mitigation is guaranteed to stop the spread of the virus, testing can identify people at greater risk of spreading the virus. Moreover, testing is a service which helps individuals know if they have the virus, prompting them to seek proper information and treatment. Testing is not 100 percent accurate and just because someone receives a negative result does not necessarily mean that they are not carrying the virus. Nonetheless, testing is one of the most effective ways to identify infected persons and prevent spread (especially in concert with other mitigation measures such as hand washing, mask wearing and physical distancing).

Anyone routinely accessing Spelman’s campus must be tested according to frequency intervals established by campus community health officials. The planned testing strategy for the spring requires bi-weekly surveillance testing. All Spelman students and faculty and staff members must be tested prior to arriving on a campus for the spring semester 2021.

Testing is required whether or not someone has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and will be performed routinely to ensure community health and the reduction of COVID-19 spread. The frequency of surveillance testing will be determined according to a few factors, including but not limited to regional infection rates, positivity rates among the community in question, and other circumstantial considerations, including events, activities or occasions that may prompt a spike in positive cases.

The most commonly endorsed COVID-19 test (by national health officials) and what is recommended by MSM for AUCC students and faculty staff members is a polymerase chain reaction test. PCR tests detect the COVID-19 virus by searching for the presence of its basic genetic material, its RNA, inside a person. The RNA will only be present if a person is currently infected. The PCR test differs from an antibody test. An antibody test can be used to determine if a person has had the virus in the past by looking in a person’s bloodstream for a specific antibody produced by the body’s immune system to defend against the virus.

Testing Information for Students
·         All students must produce a negative result from a PCR test administered 72 hours before arriving on campus. Those who test positive will not be admitted to residential facilities or allowed to attend in-person classes during the spring semester until an isolation period has concluded and they produce a negative test.
·         Information about available testing will be forthcoming.
·         Students will need to notify a Spelman representative about their COVID-19 status based on the test prior to arrival on campus.
·         In addition to a negative COVID-19 test result, students will be required to quarantine in their assigned residence hall room for 14 days after arrival to ensure the safety of our community.

AUCC-provided Tests:

Coordinated through the AUCC and MSM, community testing will be made available at no cost to all students and faculty and staff members once the semester begins. MSM and AUCC, in turn, have partnered with well-respected laboratories and public health companies to process tests and provide results in a timely manner.

Tests Not Administered Through an AUCC Institution:

Numerous opportunities for testing are available, and it is acceptable for students and faculty and staff members to obtain a test elsewhere in lieu of the test provided by Spelman. Testing by another entity, however, must meet the following conditions to be accepted:
·         testing cannot have been administered prior to 72 hours before arrival on campus
·         results of the test must be obtained prior to arrival on campus
·         testing results must be submitted to a campus official

If, for some reason, students cannot take the test at home, Spelman will provide further instructions.

Note that students will be expected to self-monitor for indications of COVID-19 through a symptom tracker and will be subject to temperature checks while on campus.

Testing Information for Employees

To support the cohort of students who will be living on campus in the residence halls, the College will determine a select group of faculty and staff members who will return to work in the spring. Those returning to campus will be split into two groups such that each group will work on-site two days a week and be tested weekly on one of those days.

Before reporting to work on campus for the spring semester, all employees at Spelman, even those who may have a need to come to campus occasionally, must receive a negative test result. Employees may obtain their own valid test (at their own expense — see above requirements) or participate in AUCC-wide COVID-19 testing (at no cost to the employee).

All individuals reporting to Spelman will be required to comply with routine temperature and symptom checks prior to arrival on campus each day. In addition, as the semester progresses, Spelman will use data and algorithms to determine when individuals with access to campus should undergo additional testing.

What is the College’s isolation and quarantine capacity?
Isolation separates those who are infected with a contagious virus from people who have not been infected. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a virus to see if they become infected. Spelman will utilize more than 160 spaces in the Beverly Daniel Tatum Suites for the isolation and quarantine needs of residential students. Isolating and quarantining will be on opposite sides of this residence hall.

How often are the symptom and temperature checks?
Although less effective than full-scale testing, symptom and temperature checks can alert symptomatic persons that they have symptoms consistent with the virus and allow the College to immediately apply mitigation procedures which prevent spread. Upon re-entry to Spelman, all employees and students will be screened daily to ensure that they are not displaying any obvious symptoms.

What are the masking rules?
Numerous studies have indicated that mask wearing is effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19, particularly when all parties in proximity to one another are wearing multi-layered masks. All students, faculty and staff members, and approved visitors will be required to wear masks in public places or in areas where physical distancing cannot be effectively practiced. Students, faculty and staff members, and approved vendors should bring and wear their own masks. Additionally, one reusable mask will be provided by Spelman to each student, as well as each faculty and staff member. Mask dispensers will be available in various locations on campus. Persons not wearing masks will be denied entry into public spaces.

What are the handwashing and hygiene protocols?
Every person at Spelman is expected to be vigilant about personal hygiene, both to prevent contraction of the virus and to prevent its spread from an infected person to others.
·         Handwashing. Hands should be washed often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after a visit to a public place, or after nose-blowing, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol should be utilized.
·         Touching face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
·         Coughing. Cover your mouth and nose with the fold of your arm whenever you cough or sneeze.

What will happen if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases on one of the campuses?
Every effort is being made to mitigate the risk of spread on an AUC campus. However, each campus retains the flexibility to intensify mitigation actions, including closing buildings, isolating pockets of potential carriers, and instituting a return to remote learning. Contact tracing will be utilized to identify any persons who may have come into contact with a person testing positive for the virus.

What if a student simply feels uncomfortable attending class?
Some students who would be eligible to return to campus for the spring semester will choose not to for medical or personal reasons and can continue virtual instruction. For students who do return to campus and at any point experience symptoms of COVID-19, they should remain in their room and follow Spelman’s health and safety protocols, which begin with contacting Spelman’s Student Health Center. If a student simply feels uncomfortable attending class for a non-medical reason, they should contact a Spelman representative for further guidance.

What if a faculty or staff member feels uncomfortable coming to work due to personal health risks or risks to persons living with them?
Faculty or staff members who have underlying health conditions, which put them at greater risk or who live with persons at greater risk should contact their supervisors or the Office of Human Resources for further guidance.

What should a student do who is experiencing symptoms? Faculty and staff members?
Once on campus, if a student feels that they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or they have tested positive, they should immediately isolate themselves in their residence hall room and contact Spelman’s Student Health Services. Health Services will provide additional instructions about how to receive treatment, if necessary, avoid contact with others and receive meal service. In some cases, isolated, asymptomatic students may still participate in remote courses and/or receive the materials and work from in-person courses.

Faculty and staff members who have tested positive or believe they are experiencing symptoms should not return to work and should contact their health care provider, supervisor and human resources representative.

What students will be invited to live in residence halls on campus?
First-year students, seniors and some student leaders will be given first priority for residing on campus. The Division of Student Affairs is developing an application to reside on campus and a process for selection.

How will on-campus living arrangements be affected?
Density in the residence halls has been reduced, with only single occupancy in the rooms, which allows for easier physical distancing in hallways, common spaces and bathrooms.

Is there an impact to residence hall move-in plans?
Move-in will occur by appointment and the number of people assisting will be limited. It is also highly recommended that move-in activities be limited to a single engagement, and that traditional day-of visits to Atlanta-area grocery stores, big box retailers, and other places for supplies be avoided to reduce the potential for the virus to be contracted and introduced onto campus after a student has been cleared to move into their residence hall.

How will students who remain on campus participate in academic and co-curricular activities?
In order to incorporate physical distancing and reduce close contact, there will be adjustments to academic and student co-curricular activities. Activities and events are being planned to engage all students, including those who will be attending virtually.

Will a student attending one AUCC institution be able to attend classes and visit residence halls on another campus?
All Spelman students cross registering for classes at Morehouse and CAU will attend those classes remotely. Morehouse and CAU students registering for Spelman classes will attend them remotely. In general, students should expect adjustments to normal campus visitation policies and restrictions on access as each college works to mitigate any spread of the virus on its campus.

Will commuter students be invited back for in-person instruction?
Spelman students living off campus will be able to enter campus for events (up to the campus low-density re-population capacity) and for in-person classes. However, because faculty members will be given the option to elect to teach in-person or remotely, all students should be prepared to take classes online. If classes are conducted in-person, faculty members may rotate students on different class days to satisfy class size limits to achieve a low-density teaching and learning environment.

How has the academic calendar been affected?
The first day of classes will remain Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, as previously announced. There will be no spring break, though there will now be a shorter mid-point break beginning on Wednesday, March 31, and ending on Friday, April 2 (Good Friday). This schedule will apply to students learning both in-person and virtually.

How is access to the library and library services affected?
The AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library, shared by Spelman, CAU, the International Theological Seminary, and Morehouse, has proactively instituted policies to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread. These include reorganizing spaces inside the library to provide for physical distancing, limiting the number of people who can access the library at any given time, requiring personal protective equipment, including masks, and enhancing the frequency of surface cleaning. In addition, numerous library resources are available online and library staff is available to assist students and faculty and staff members virtually.

*Spelman’s health protocols are informed by public health experts at MSM and a review of best practices developed through MSM’s resumption of in-person operations this summer. These practices are also informed by the latest scientific research on the virus and current guidance provided by the CDC and federal and regional health agencies.


Office of the President
Phone: 404-270-5001

Fax: 404-270-5010

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