Dear faculty, staff, and students:
As we prepare for the return of students in a few short weeks, the university is implementing important safety measures that align with state and federal recommendations and enacting comprehensive protocols that prioritize health and wellness. As you have been made aware by various university communications, standard practices, such as face coverings, physical distancing, decreased classroom capacities, contraflow in and out of classrooms, increased sanitation, enhanced technology, mandatory reentry COVID-19 testing, and required daily health screenings for students are just some of the required measures that will be implemented this fall to make the Auburn campus safer. Below is a recap of several other items that may impact your activities:
Extension of operational modifications: With the advisement of state and federal officials, the university is extending much of the previously announced operational modifications through Oct. 10. However, every campus office and unit will remain open and staffed to maintain operational effectiveness, which may include staggered or rotating shifts to meet this requirement while ensuring physical distancing and other safety protocols. While on campus, faculty and staff must comply with all related university policies and guidance, including but not limited to those on physical distancing, face coverings, events and entry and exit procedures. Faculty and staff who cannot perform their job duties due to a COVID-19 related issue, such as an underlying health condition or childcare, should consult guidelines for the three categories of leave or discuss other alternatives with their supervisor.
Instruction delivery modalities: As part of the re-entry plan, Provost Hardgrave has asked us to remember our shared goals and expectations – delivering instruction in ways that support the continued academic progress of our students, meeting the learning objectives for our courses, ensuring the academic integrity that we as faculty strive for, and engaging with students in ways that support meaningful learning. Our Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and faculty have carefully worked out a plan, using a combination of face-to-face, hi-flex, blended, and online instruction delivery modalities to offer courses in the fall.
SFWS field research and laboratories: In accordance with the university’s guidelines, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will allow students to be transported by school vehicles to laboratory sites. To do so safely, faculty and students must adhere to protocols, including wearing face coverings, hand sanitizing before and after leaving vehicles, keeping windows down for ventilation, and forbidding anyone with a compromised system to be transported. For their safety, students may be asked to transport themselves if necessary. University travel will continue to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and essential travel will be permitted at the discretion of the executive vice president or provost.
SFWS classroom and instructional modifications: Within the Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Building, the school’s classrooms will be reduced to about fifty percent capacity and IT systems will be upgraded for recording classes. To assist faculty with instruction, the SFWS is also considering other equipment such as drawing pads to simulate online lectures, touch screen whiteboards, and video cameras for filming field exercises and laboratories. To assure these actions and others are in full compliance with the university’s safety recommendations, the school will undergo a COVID Compliance and Occupancy Study.
Flexible spending account plans: We have also recently been informed that due to COVID-19, the IRS has relaxed restrictions related to qualifying events and is allowing midyear changes to flexible spending account plans (medical and dependent care). As a result, Auburn University will have a special enrollment during the month of August to allow current 2020 Plan Year participants of one or both of these accounts to update their elections for the remainder of 2020.
On behalf of the school’s leadership, I wish to extend our gratitude for your patience and flexibility. We could not have navigated this situation thus far without your steadfast commitment to the university and school. Going forward, our success will continue to depend on your individual attention to these measures to ensure the safety of all. Please be diligent in your activities and aware of changing conditions and circumstances as we forge ahead. As always, I wish you and yours good health and wellness.
Janaki R.R. Alavalapati, PhD
Dean, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
3301 Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Building
602 Duncan Drive, Auburn University
Auburn, Alabama 36849-3418