July 28, 2020

Dear UAF faculty and staff,

If there is one thing that we know, it is that things change. They have changed over the course of the summer and they will continue to change this fall as more testing is available, more cases are known, and we know more about the coronavirus. As the state grapples with what to do and what not to do, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District announced last night that they would start the school year by distance. One of the concerns of health officials is the transmission of the virus from K-12 schools to universities and back through households that have family members in both systems. Because K-12 is being taught via distance, that will be an added level of protection for our operating environment.

As many of you know, our Incident Management Team has changed to become an Operations Support Team (OST). The OST is providing support to all units on campus and organizing the many universitywide efforts such as facilities preparation, signage and personal protective equipment. I want to thank Doug Schrage for his leadership of this group and the many people who are actively engaged in this important work.

Other changes rolling out include a revamping of the UA-wide student testing policy, on-site operations plan and campus access policy. The new policies will be posted to the website soon. In the meantime, here is a summary of the changes.

UA operations plan
The on-site operations plan has been updated to better reflect our current landscape and what we know from CDC guidance, state mandates, and the known and unknowns about COVID-19. The plan still has five phases:

Phase A — Highly Restricted, with alternative delivery of classes, facility closure to the public, employees working from home unless deemed necessary to conduct work on-site, limited congregate housing, and no mass gatherings.

Phase B (current UAF approved phase) — Easing into operations, which means limited resumption of on-site operations that can’t be easily met remotely, face-to-face classes are allowed by broad exceptions when student learning outcomes cannot easily be met, employees continue to conduct telework but more flexibility is offered for on-site work, and congregate housing is open but at a reduced capacity.

Phase C — Moderating phase, allowing additional in-person instruction, research and service operations that comply with State of Alaska and local requirements. Congregate housing will be assessed for additional occupancy, and telework will remain available but will be less predominant, allowing more staff to work onsite.

Phase D — Monitoring is a near-normal phase, with full congregate housing and full face-to-face operations, including class offerings and on-site work.

Phase E — Full on-site operations is the final phase at which point all activities can resume as “normal” and no supplemental protective measures will be necessary.

UAF’s on-site operations
UAF is currently approved to operate in Phase B, which gives faculty the option to teach face-to-face courses, hybrid courses with both face-to-face and distance delivery, or solely online delivery.

Face-to-face classes will be set up with the utmost safety in mind. Faculty will be provided face shields if they choose to wear them, classrooms will be set up with 6 feet of social distancing (nose to nose) and all persons will be required to wear face coverings per the UAF COVID-19 face coverings policy. Classrooms will have one entrance and one exit, and those classrooms that only have one door, will follow entrance and exit guidelines. Sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer will be available.

UA student testing
I encourage faculty, staff and students to review the student testing guidance and what is required. The guidance outlines that all residential students will be required to take two COVID-19 tests or self-quarantine for 14 days regardless of the method of travel used to arrive on campus. We recommend students bring a negative COVID-19 test with them that was taken within 72 hours of arrival to campus.

Students who opt to complete the 14-day self-quarantine rather than testing may not attend classes until the end of their quarantine period. Students are being advised of the requirements and asked to contact their instructors if they expect to be unable to attend class the first week or two. I ask that faculty be flexible with students in this situation during the start of the semester.

We are in the process of contracting with a private lab to conduct the testing for students. In addition, the UAF Student Health and Counseling Center can test students on site on a case-by-case basis.

Campus access
The UA campus access policy requires all university affiliates, visitors and contractors to abide by the existing terms of federal, state or local orders, mandates, alerts and advisories in addition to university restrictions found under university operational guidelines. Additionally, special restrictions apply to individuals who:
  • Have been in ANY location outside Alaska, foreign or domestic, within the past two weeks; or
  • Have been identified by public health officials to have been in “close contact” with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID- 19, or with someone who is COVID-19 symptomatic and is a “person under investigation”; or
  • Are returning from having been a passenger on a cruise ship; or
  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • Are COVID-19 symptomatic or are a “person under investigation.”
Anyone falling into the special restrictions category will be required to self-observe for 14 days, provide negative COVID-19 test results, or be medically cleared prior to visiting or returning to campus.

COVID-19 campus forums
In addition to the Tuesday communications that I am sending to all employees, we will have Friday forums at 10 a.m. starting this Friday to address questions and discuss the COVID-19 situation. I hope that you will submit questions in advance and join us this Friday. I will start with an overview, followed by Provost Anupma Prakash to address academic issues. eCampus Director Owen Guthrie will also discuss faculty training to adapt classes for online and hybrid delivery. Additionally, Residence Life Director Holly Beamon will join us to provide an update on Residence Life operations, and fire chief and OST lead Doug Schrage will join us to answer questions on general operations and preparedness.

Status of residence halls and classes
We currently have housing available to students who attest to the need to live on campus in order to meet learning outcomes, and whom we can accommodate in single-occupancy rooms. These students will all be required to sign a social compact — a contract to keep each other and our campus safe. We currently have approximately 650 students who have requested on-campus living. We can accommodate this number while still maintaining an entire residence hall for quarantine and another for isolation, if that were required.

With respect to classes, the latest numbers look like approximately 60% of all student credit hours will be by distance, with the remainder being between 1 and 100% face-to-face. I want to emphasize that delivery modality is the decision of the individual faculty member. I know there are many faculty who continue to work with eCampus to convert their classes now to distance. With so many of our credit hours being delivered by distance I think this will do two things to our advantage. First, it will reduce the pressure on classrooms and campus spaces. Second it gives plenty of distance options for students who do not wish to wear masks. Both of these will make our face-to-face classes safer for all.

What happens if someone is COVID-19 positive?
The question in our planning is not what happens if someone is COVID-19 positive but when. This disease is spreading throughout Alaska, and given the high percentage of people who exhibit no symptoms, it will continue to spread. Students and employees who test positive should not come to campus. That is in our campus access policy.

COVID-19 continues to change our educational landscape as we know it, and we will continue to change with it. Please join us this Friday for an overview of the fall semester and what planning is taking place around COVID-19.

Thank you for choosing UAF!

— Dan White, chancellor
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