March 24 Update on the COVID-19 Coronavirus

24 Mar 2020

TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 2020

Chancellor Jeb Spaulding sent a opens in a new windowCOVID-19 Update message today to all VSCS employees and students. This is another transition necessary in response to our understanding of the coronavirus.

We assumed this could be a possibility when the Chancellor announced our transition to remote delivery on March 12, 2020. While we had hopes of students returning to their campuses and some sense of normalcy this semester, this option of remaining at a distance is necessary for suppressing the spread of the illness, the effects of which we are just beginning to feel.

This week was just the second week of transitioning classes in this new delivery format. Faculty and staff are working tirelessly throughout this extended spring break to be ready for next Monday’s restart of classes. I am actually very excited about what next week will bring, invigorated by the energy of faculty and staff who are working so hard to deliver Vermont Tech solutions to this challenge. However, there is something bittersweet about acknowledging that students will not return to our campuses this spring.

Refunds

As Chancellor Spaulding stated, we will be providing pro-rated refunds for room and meals. Key Student Services will be providing more information and details in the next few days. This is a process and your patience is appreciated. We will be adjusting accounts and communicating directly to affected students as we have more details. Please allow time for the process to proceed before contacting Financial Aid.

Removing remaining belongings from campus

Also noted in Chancellor Spaulding’s email, Vermont Emergency Management has requested space at the Vermont State College System campuses to prepare for greater demand on the state’s health care services. Many of us are within 10 miles of our local hospitals. Our residence halls could be put to use to shelter health care workers, foster children, and patients with non-coronavirus illnesses or injuries. This is your chance to help your community in a time of need. We are asking students to remove their belongings quickly, if possible, and to have your understanding if your items end up being moved and stored until you can safely retrieve them should a “shelter in place” order from the Governor supersede our timeline.

Student Affairs has developed a plan for students to retrieve items left in their residence hall rooms in a safe manner. Theo Manazir, Director of Residential Life, will send out more information later today. Please do not show up unannounced. This must be a coordinated effort to maintain social distancing and protect the health of our staff. In addition to Theo’s email, we have included his directions to the opens in a new windowStudent FAQ page of our website.

Commencement

It is clear that without students here at the end of the semester, we cannot hold Commencement at the originally schedule weekend. That does not mean we will not eventually host celebratory events to honor our graduates. This a postponement and not a cancellation. Our team is working through ideas for alternative celebrations. Importantly, this has no impact on the conferral of degrees. Graduates who complete their degrees will have their transcripts to demonstrate their employability, etc. We will find a way (or ways) for us all to celebrate this important milestone in your lives.

Summer

Much of the opens in a new windowsummer curriculum is already scheduled online and using Telepresence technology. We are planning to run those courses already online and will look for ways to delivery other courses using remote delivery where possible this summer. Please think of this as a chance to catch up or get ahead in your studies.

Staying connected

Employees:

I wanted to assure you that time together is scheduled in the near term. I am meeting with faculty at our standing President’s Meeting with Faculty this Thursday. I am meeting with staff at the Staff Council Meeting on Monday, March 30. I encourage you to email me questions ahead of these two meetings so I can organize my responses and have answers to meet your needs.

Students:

Student Affairs plans to host a Zoom open forum for students on Thursday, March 26 at 2pm. Please join them for a Q&A in response to this latest update and in preparation for next week’s start of classes. Please email your questions to studentaffairs@vtc.edu ahead of time.

We understand how trying and stressful it is to have plans change, and with some frequency, as this pandemic is sweeping across our country. If you want additional support, Kathleen Mason and Mary Kathryn Juskiewicz are available by phone and email. Mental health counseling is also available via telehealth. Contact Mary Kathryn if you wish to schedule an appointment.

To create the best student experience, our staff in Student Affairs are looking at ways of providing activities and services remotely for the remainder of the semester.  Look for more information from Caitlyn Clark, Dana Mitchell and Hillary Linehan on fun things to keep you busy and engaged outside of schoolwork.