Looking Ahead: Testing & Transition

Dr. Stanley T. Wearden

Dear Members of the Methodist University Community,

There are moments in everyone’s pasts that we’ll remember vividly for the rest of our lives. From the personal or professional to something more global, the common thread in these moments is that they stir emotion. Happy, sad, proud, worried and honored are just a few of the feelings that can engulf us during memorable times.

March 20, 2020, was one such day.

It was on this day that I alerted the Methodist University community that we were essentially closing our campus for the rest of the spring semester. We had no diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at that time, but the disease was spreading quickly around us, and we made the aggressive, proactive and unprecedented decision to send our students, faculty and staff home immediately.

Fast-forward nearly eight full months and here we are, Methodist, just 11 days away from completing the Fall 2020 Semester on campus. I could go on at length about our students and their efforts to follow crucial safety guidelines. I could go into great detail about the tireless efforts of our health care team and of our faculty and staff. I may still do that at some point, but today I want to look forward. Forward Together was our theme for this fall, and Forward Together is how we’ll approach the upcoming break and entrance into next semester.

What follows is our general plan for the remainder of 2020 and the start of the 2021 Spring Semester.

REMAINDER OF THE FALL TERM

It’s so important that we finish the semester strong – personally, academically and following our COVID guidelines. What has gotten us this far – Green Screen reporting, wearing masks, social distancing, gathering protocols – is what can carry us through these final couple of weeks.

Academics: The last day of classes for undergraduate programs is Tuesday, Nov. 24. There is no formal “finals week” scheduled this fall. Please contact individual professors if you have questions about final exams or projects in your courses. The last day of the semester for graduate programs is Dec. 11.

Moving Out: To properly check out of your residence hall room or apartment, you must return your room key to a member of the Residence Life staff, preferably your direct RA, by either handing the key to the RA or by using the Express Check Out envelope and sliding it under the RA door, or Hall office door. Residential students also will receive detailed instructions from the Residence Life and Housing Office soon regarding additional exit procedures.

COVID Testing: In an effort to keep our community (and families at home) safe, MU is planning to offer free COVID testing to all students, faculty and staff before we leave for break. If our supplier comes through for us as expected, we hope to begin testing Nov. 18, and we hope to begin that day. We will keep you posted on the tests. These are non-invasive, rapid tests and the plan is to offer them through Nov. 24, by appointment only, at the Student Health Center in West Hall. We will notify everyone by email if the tests are delayed. For questions concerning your health, additional testing detail, or how to make an appointment, please visit: www.methodist.edu/forward/health/

December Graduate Celebration: The virtual celebration video will air on Dec. 12. For additional information on the celebration, visit www.methodist.edu/graduation.

WINTER BREAK

While at home for break, please continue to follow protocols that will keep you, your family, your friends and, ultimately when you return, your MU community safe. With colder temperatures in our near future, and flu season upon us already, many health officials are concerned about another large wave of the virus. Bringing the virus back could lead to a nearly immediate end to our spring semester on campus.

For those leaving campus, it will not be required that you continue using the Green Screen App while on break, but it’s not a bad idea to stay in (or create) the routine of doing it each morning so that you can continue that daily routine in January.

Students who are approved to remain on campus during the break must continue to use the Green Screen App and follow all of the guidelines and protocols that were put in place for the Fall Semester. Additional instructions will be sent to you soon from the Residential Life staff.

SPRING 2021 SEMESTER

Short of extenuating circumstances, our plan is to have students return to campus for the 2021 Spring Semester. We intend to have in-classroom instruction – as well as hybrid, remote, and online instruction as identified in the course schedule – and protocols will be similar to those that were so successful this fall. Working with health officials and taking every precaution possible, we are also pleased to announce we will be able to administer a COVID test to every student living in a residence hall upon return to campus.

Academics/Calendar: Classes are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Final exams are April 29-May 6, and the graduate and undergraduate Commencement Ceremony is May 8. For more detail, visit: www.methodist.edu/forward#academics

COVID Testing: As mentioned above, all students returning to live in residence halls will be tested. Students may choose to test at home (it must be 72 hours or fewer before arriving on campus, at their expense, and with proof of test results in hand), or receive a free test upon arrival to campus. These are also non-invasive, rapid tests. A “negative for COVID” result will be mandatory before a student can be released from quarantine on or off campus. Students who test positive on campus will be given the choice of isolating on campus or going back home for isolation. Students who decide to test at home and who test positive should remain at home in isolation until they no longer have COVID. For questions about your health or testing, please visit: www.methodist.edu/forward/health/.

Moving In: In addition to the testing instructions, all residential students will receive information from the Residence Life and Housing Office soon regarding return dates and processes.

Athletics: All student-athletes should pay close attention to team correspondence, but also the Forward Together site (www.methodist.edu/forward/athletics) for additional detail and contacts.

COVID Guidelines: In consultation with health officials, and based on our success thus far, our plan is to maintain the safety guidelines and protocols that were utilized in the fall. For detailed information and contacts, please visit www.methodist.edu/forward.

Communication is another topic I’d like to mention concerning the rest of this semester, winter break and heading into the spring semester. It will continue to be very important for everyone to read emails sent to the community throughout the break, and also to be sure to check the Forward Together website regularly (www.methodist.edu/forward) for detailed information and contacts.

We’ve worked together extremely hard, MU. There is a great deal to be proud of, especially as we saw other universities that tried to have in-person learning but had to move to remote learning months ago. But our goals are grand. We didn’t plan for half of a semester or even for half of a school year, but rather for a full school year. If we continue to care for each other by following protocol and truly move Forward Together, I know we can achieve that goal.

Sincerely,

Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.
President