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Important Employee Update on WPI’s Pandemic Response, Impact on C-Term and Spring Semester

Note: This is dated information and may not reflect the current policies in place on campus. Please refer to We Are WPI for the latest information.

January 8, 2021

This message was sent to all WPI employees,

I hope this message finds you and yours safe and healthy as we continue to manage through the pandemic. I am writing to update you on our plans for the beginning of C-Term and spring semester.

We are closely monitoring COVID cases locally, regionally, and nationally. As always, our plans are following the latest science, keeping the health and safety of our community as a top priority, and leveraging all we have learned from the past nine months of operating the university through this crisis.

As you will recall, because we were anticipating a post-holiday surge, we pushed back the start date of C-Term and spring semester to January 28.  We will stick with that date, and we will proceed with our plan to bring students back to campus, where they can be regularly tested and cared for, starting around January 21. That process involves pre-arrival testing for all residential students, and several consecutive onboarding tests for all students.

To facilitate rebuilding our “bubble” and help us manage disease spread early in the term, effective Friday, January 15, WPI will move to Stay in Place (Alert Level Yellow) status.  Our plan is to maintain this status through the first two weeks of classes—until at least February 11—or until our testing, quarantine, and isolation data shows that it is safe to return to a less-restrictive status.

The main change to operations is that, during the first two weeks of C-Term/spring semester, all classes, labs, student projects, and activities will be done remotely—and access to campus will be limited for students.

Our students and their families are receiving a message with many more details that are specific to them, and I encourage you to read it so we can all be on the same page. My goal here is to provide some employee-specific context to help you plan accordingly – you’ll note that none of this is a significant change from how we are operating currently:

  • Faculty will still have access to their offices and classrooms during this time.
  • As noted in last week’s email, during this break (while students are off campus), faculty and staff who can work from home should do so. Staff should work out those details with their supervisors.
  • Any faculty and staff who already participated in the testing program and plan to resume working on campus must take onboarding tests for COVID-19 before they can fully return. Upon return they will resume regular, routine testing. Please refer to this flowchart for guidance.
  • There will be no visitors to campus. Access requests for vendor and research activities will be vetted by CERT, as will requests from employees who are outside of the testing program.
  • Only researchers who already have approved emergency status will have lab access at this time, and there will be no research involving human subjects conducted. Anyone with questions should contact Bogdan Vernescu, Vice Provost for Research.
  • Students’ ability to move freely around campus will be extremely limited; this will be particularly true for students who live off campus.

Considering the increase in COVID cases in our region, it is not be surprising that we have been finding a small number of COVID-positive individuals through our routine testing that has continued over the break.  But these cases are not just numbers; these are our colleagues, and each and every member of this community is important to all of us.

So please—no matter where you are—take care of yourself. And please keep doing what you can to help mitigate the spread of this virus. The only way we can get through this pandemic is by working together to help each other.