After a two-week spring break, students will return to their studies – solely on their computers. About 6,500 classes will go completely online beginning Monday, March 23, through the end of the semester, to protect the health and safety of the campus community.
Moving classes online is a form of social distancing, a strategy that public health experts say is the most effective way to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Montclair State has also implemented other strategies to reduce the risk to the campus community, including remote working for many employees as well as requiring all students, staff and faculty returning from abroad or from a cruise or who are ill or may have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine at home for 14 consecutive days.
The term “social distancing” – a rarely used phrase until the coronavirus pandemic began – refers to avoiding close contact with others in order to reduce contagion.
“The University has two critical current objectives. First, to keep our students and employees as safe as possible. Second, to enable our students to complete the academic term,” President Susan A. Cole said.
The precautions Montclair State has adopted to reduce health risks include:
- Increasing physical distance between people in meetings or in workspaces, holding meetings via phone or video conferences, staggering shifts, separating work groups into different locations, and having some employees work remotely.
- Prohibiting persons who have been abroad, diagnosed with or been exposed to COVID-19 or been on a cruise ship from entering the campus until they have completed a 14-day quarantine in order to monitor their health and verify they are free from symptoms for 24 hours.
- Prohibiting from campus anyone living in a region in the United States where a mandatory quarantine or period of self-isolation has been imposed by a governmental authority until after the self-isolation period has expired.
- Prohibiting employees from traveling on University business outside the State of New Jersey unless such travel is deemed essential by the President.
- Discouraging communal dining and increasing “grab and go” options for dining.
- Allowing only faculty, staff and students with IDs to enter Sprague Library.
- Canceling all performances, athletics contests, events and student activities.
University services continue to be available to students and employees who need them, including Information Technology, student support, residence halls/dining, human resources and financial functions.
Montclair State Public Health Professor Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist who has provided the news media with expert insight into minimizing the spread of COVID-19, said colleges provide complex challenges, especially public universities serving a broad community of students with varying needs.
It is essential to maintain services for students who are food insecure or who do not have the ability to leave, while at the same time practicing social distancing to protect health, safety and wellness.
“Staggered work hours, ensuring people are a safe distance apart, and making sure students don’t congregate in dining halls will serve all the constituents of the University, and that means, students, faculty and staff,” Silvera said.
During the extended two-week spring break, the University has been providing workshops and instruction to faculty to help them prepare for switching from face-to-face instruction to fully online classes. Students have been provided with resources on how to succeed in an online class.
This is a rapidly changing situation, and decisions in regard to possible refunds for housing, parking and meal plans will be made at a later date, said Karen L. Pennington, vice president for Student Development and Campus Life.
Students who are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and are unable do that off-campus should email email@example.com. They will be placed in Montclair State’s quarantined housing designated by the University for this purpose.
“These certainly are unusual and difficult times and we will do our best to ensure that students’ needs are met as effectively as possible,” Cole said. “Our efforts may change as the situation evolves and I am extremely grateful to all of the faculty, staff and student employees who are working so hard on this complex effort.”
You can find all University Communications and what students, faculty and staff need to know about the coronavirus on the Montclair State coronavirus website.
Story written by Staff Writer Marilyn Lehren