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University News

Returning to Campus Safely

Here’s how to follow the safety protocols and what to expect

Posted in: Homepage News, University

Students walking in front of Cole Hall at Montclair State University in the snow
As we return to fully in-person learning, here is how to follow the safety protocols and what to expect

As COVID-19 case numbers rise both on campus and across New Jersey, the University is monitoring the situation closely, and continues to follow state and federal guidelines and consult with our on-campus experts.

We will be requiring booster shots, and following the strategies that science has shown work to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Read on for details!

The University will offer a full complement of in-person instruction and support services in spring 2022, and looks forward to welcoming our students back to campus on January 18, with many precautions in place to reduce the risk of infection.

Watch the Returning Safely for Spring 2022 video here.

Why We’re Coming Back

Our community returns for the start of the spring semester in a position of strength.

More than 93% of our total campus population (students, faculty and staff) is vaccinated, which is currently the strongest line of defense against COVID-19. While case numbers have risen, the symptoms associated with the omicron variant have been shown to be more mild than previous variants, with only one case in the University community leading to hospitalization (and that person has recovered).

The pivot to remote learning at the outset of the pandemic in 2020 also showed us that all-virtual instruction is not an ideal model for the students we serve, creating both educational and mental health challenges for many students and exacerbating equity concerns.

To help all students stay on track, achieve their educational goals and reduce the potential trauma of the pandemic, maintaining an in-person learning environment while keeping our community safe is a priority.

Booster Shots to be Required

A booster dose helps your body fight off the virus if you get exposed to it and helps reduce the symptoms if you are infected. Remember, being fully vaccinated means being boosted! That’s why the University will require students and employees to obtain booster shots.

The requirements for employees are as follows (see the full policy statement for more details).

All employees must update their COVID-19 vaccination history using Vax Check no later than January 21, 2022, at 5 p.m. to indicate if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination booster. This is not required for employees who have previously provided verification via Vax Check that they received a booster.

In addition:

  • Managers and temporary employees: must submit proof of obtaining a booster shot no later than January 21, 2022.
  • AFT Local 1904 members (faculty, instructional/clinical specialists, librarians and professional staff) must submit proof of complete vaccination, or have received approval for an exemption for medical or religious reasons, no later than May 15, 2022.
  • AFT Local 6025, CWA, IFPTE, NJLESA, NJSOLA and PBA SLEU members are strongly encouraged to obtain booster shots. The University has advised these bargaining units of the amended policy and, upon request, the University will enter into negotiations on negotiable items regarding the impact of the policy on their members.

Students are urged to get boosted as soon as possible and no later than March 1. They will be sent details by email.

Don’t Wait – Get Boosted Now and You Could Win a Prize

The University wants as many students and employees as possible to get their booster shots as quickly as possible, so we will be raffling off prizes to encourage everyone to get boosted soon.

Employees who submit their proof of receiving a booster shot by noon on Thursday, January 20 will be automatically entered to win a $500 Visa gift card. One name will be drawn randomly every workday starting Friday, January 14 and ending Thursday, January 20, for a total of five drawings – so the sooner you submit your proof, the more chances you will have to win.

To enter, just upload your vaccine card, showing that you have received a booster shot, in Vax Check. If you have already uploaded proof of your booster shot in Vax Check, you do not need to do so again. Every employee who has submitted proof of receiving a booster shot (and received confirmation that their submission was approved) will be automatically entered into the daily drawing. Winners will be drawn at random, and one person may win more than once – so submit your proof today!

Students are being sent details about their raffle.

A Phased Return

For the next few weeks, the administrative departments have adopted a phased return of staff to the campus. Some employees with non-student-facing duties will work off-campus, reducing office density while assuring that units continue to provide on-campus services and meet their commitments to supporting our students and our community. Student-facing jobs should be performed in person on campus.

Tips for Faculty

Faculty are encouraged to message their students prior to the start of classes to share syllabi, reiterate modality expectations and communicate their plans. The Office for Faculty Advancement has prepared pre-semester surveys and other templates located in Canvas Commons and guidance which can be found on the OFA website. With an expectation that student absences will increase, particularly at the beginning of the semester, faculty should consider what options for maintaining academic continuity will work best for them, their students, and their course. Additional guidance from OFA is available at Academic Continuity Planning. As always, instructors who face individual challenges or questions should work with their department chair and Dean’s Office.

Keeping Each Other Healthy

The University is using the strategies that science has shown work to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including:

  • Vaccinations: Being fully vaccinated – which means having a booster when you become eligible – is one of the best tools we have to control the virus. The Essex County Health Department will give vaccinations and booster shots on campus on February 10. Register here. Or book an appointment at any of the County’s free clinics.
  • Testing: We have an on-campus testing center, located in Webster Hall, that provides free tests for all students and employees. All residential students will be required to provide a negative PCR test before moving back into the residence halls.
  • Masking: Masks will continue to be required indoors on campus, as well as outdoors in crowded settings or when participating in outdoor activities that involve close contact with other people.
  • Hawk Check: All members of the campus community and all visitors are required to complete this daily self-report of symptoms and exposures, which allows our health-care professionals to take quick actions to slow the spread of infection.
  • Staying Home if Sick: At Montclair, we like to share things – but not germs! We are reminding everyone to stay home whenever you are sick.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely, consult with our on-campus experts who serve on the Community Health Advisory Team, and make adjustments based on the most current data and our understanding of the guidelines of the CDC and New Jersey Department of Health,” says President Jonathan Koppell.

“The health and safety of our community members are public goods we create and maintain together,” Koppell says. “Every community member must do their part to ensure our safety and our ability to achieve our mission.”

For more information, please visit the University’s COVID-19 Information website.