What to Know About Spring 2022 - Faculty and Staff
Dear Faculty, Staff and Graduate Workers,
My sincere hope is that your winter break was relaxing and rejuvenating, and that you have a healthy and happy 2022.
We are rapidly approaching the spring semester, and I know the changing landscape of the pandemic brings with it a deep sense of concern for some in the Jayhawk community, myself included. At the same time, I know we are far better prepared for what may come than ever before, so I want to let you know about current plans for the coming semester.
First, a reminder that the vast majority of us have adopted the most effective means possible to curb this pandemic and limit its impact. We have the benefit of knowing with even greater certainty the high vaccination status of our community and the documented benefits of vaccination. On behalf of all Jayhawks, I express deep appreciation to all who have taken this important step in protecting yourselves, your loved ones, and members of our community. I’m also thankful that more of our family members are now eligible for vaccinations and boosters. We will continue to require masking in our academic and work spaces, and encourage everyone to use the most effective masks available to them whenever they are in indoor spaces or large gatherings.
As most of you know, there are laws, regulations and rulings that limit our range of responses to the pandemic. At the same time, tools and strategies we’ve used during previous surges have been effective in allowing us to remain open in order to better serve our students as a research residential campus in Lawrence and as a workforce and professional commuter campus at Edwards. We’ll continue to use these efforts and modify as needed to address whatever our new circumstances bring.
Our spring semester will start on time and in person. Our teams will continue to monitor pandemic conditions and work closely with state and regional public health officials. We can expect there will be disruptions on a case-by-case basis that we will need to address as they arise, and I ask for your grace, understanding and agility as we work together on appropriate solutions.
This spring we will resume with many of the practices that have helped us remain open and responsive to our students, each other and our state.
As in the past, we have the challenge of working to meet students’ needs for in-person services and conducting research activities while also balancing the health considerations of our staff and instructors. Some offices and work spaces may be able to reduce their in-person presence while still maintaining appropriate office hours, though many will not be able to do so.
Employees should not report to work if they are sick or if they need to care for sick family members. Human Resource Management will soon be sending guidance to supervisors on how they should address staffing shortages should they occur. Supervisors and unit leaders should also re-examine hybrid or remote-work settings for temporary use until the current spike has passed, or in an ongoing manner if the position is not required to be in person. This is also an opportunity to identify other ways to creatively staff offices, work spaces and laboratories that limit potential exposure and still continue critical functions and allow students and others access to support services and solutions.
Masking and PPE
Masking is still required in campus buildings, and with the reinstatement of the Douglas County provision, masking is again required of all patrons in Allen Fieldhouse. The virulent conditions presented by the Omicron variant have also led to an important change in KU’s mask policy. Instructors and presenters, with the exception of those in the theatre or other performing arts, must wear masks at all times in the classrooms, including when speaking and presenting. Department leaders can request clear masks and PAPR suits for instructors addressing situations when audience members need visual cues from their presenters.
Course Format and Instructional Delivery
Courses will be delivered in the format that was posted in the spring 2022 course schedule. Instructors may not permanently change the course format or location without the approval of their Dean, or through an ADA accommodation request.
Advisors have instructed students to enroll in course formats that best meet their instructional needs and health concerns.
Continuity of Instruction
First and most importantly, the instructor and department chair or dean should identify whether other instructors can assume classroom responsibilities if an instructor is unable to be physically present in class due to illness, family illness or the need to quarantine.
Alternatively, if the instructor is able to teach during the period of isolation or quarantine, the course can shift temporarily to remote instruction for the period when the instructor is in quarantine. Please ensure students are aware of this possibility at the start of the semester. The Dean should be made aware of any such changes in course status, in order to provide appropriate support and for reporting purposes.
The isolation period identified by the CDC varies depending on a number of factors, including vaccination status, the presence or absence of COVID symptoms and test results. Please refer to the Protect KU website for the latest guidelines.
Course Attendance Policies and Practices
While instructors determine and control the attendance policies for their courses, I ask that you build flexibility into your course structure to accommodate student illness and classroom absence, as needed. The Center for Teaching Excellence website offers these suggestions on ways to provide flexibility while still promoting student learning and engagement.
Students are responsible for communicating in a timely manner if they are unable to attend class due to illness. Watkins Health Services has asked that instructors consider alternate forms of absence verification — perhaps the documentation of a medical appointment — rather than a doctor’s note. Such a move could help reduce an avoidable rush on Watkins Health Services visits, freeing medical professionals to work with serious cases, as well as deliver preventive care.
It's possible that due to the medical situation of students, class attendance may be so low that it makes pedagogical sense to temporarily move an in-person class to a remote setting. I’ve worked with partners across campus to develop guidance for instructors and department leaders regarding decisions to shift course format. Should attendance drop below 25% for a week, an instructor may move their course to online for a one-time period of no more than two weeks. Instructors must send a request to their chair or dean that includes a brief justification and documentation (sharing attendance records or emails from students). We will continue to assess the pandemic situation and send notice to let you know when this guidance is no longer in effect.
Students who need to temporarily isolate due to illness or a positive COVID result are responsible for reaching out to their instructors to determine how they can best stay current in their individual courses.
Instructors are not obligated to construct an online version of their in-person course for individual students whose circumstances place them at higher risk for COVID-19. Students were previously advised they should enroll in courses that are offered in the format they need. Students who need courses in online or hybrid formats should work with their advisor to find suitable courses that will help them stay on track in their programs.
Remaining Vigilant and Informed
While the Omicron variant presents new challenges for the United States and our community, vaccination appears to be very effective in stemming the worst effects of this variant. I encourage everyone who hasn’t been boosted or vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. We continue to make it safe, easy and secure for students and employees to get vaccinated through Watkins Health Services if they haven’t already done so. We will continue to expect students, staff and faculty to wear masks in our academic and work settings. Almost all campus common spaces – classrooms, conference rooms and office suites – have also been equipped with air filtration units.
Our guidance may change as the situation evolves. As in the past, I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to balance the various needs of our community members. We’ve done this before, and shown we can adapt to unique or new circumstances. Please continue to check the Protect KU website. PPE is still available to individuals, departments and offices on campus when department leaders submit an order through the Protect KU website. You can also submit COVID-specific questions on the Protect KU site.
Thank you for your commitment to our students and the community we serve and care about. Please take care of yourselves and each other as we continue to make our way through these unprecedented times.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor