COVID-19 announcements to the SMC community
Fall 2020 Reopening Information for Students and Parents:
I am excited to announce that SMC will reopen for the fall semester, with classes beginning on Wednesday, August 19. We look forward to having our new Pioneers with us this fall, and I'm excited to share our reopening plan with you. We have a few different ways for you to receive this information, and they're outlined below.
You are invited to attend a live video Town Hall meeting on Thursday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m. During that meeting, my leadership team and I will discuss the reopening plan, “Pioneers Together,” and take questions from students and parents.
To join the meeting, simply click on the link [in your email] shortly before 6:30. If you can’t attend the meeting, it will be recorded and the link furnished to students and parents via email on Friday, June 26.
I want to assure you that the Pioneers Together reopening plan has been created with student health and safety, as well as the health and safety of our faculty and staff, as our first priority. Because the COVID-19 situation is still evolving, the reopening plan may change depending on local conditions, new recommendations from public health officials or other circumstances.
We know you are anxious about what to expect this fall and may not want to wait for tomorrow night's Town Hall or for the recording to be sent to you. You may view the Pioneers Together reopening plan ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting by following the link below:
The Pioneers Together reopening plan is comprehensive and complex. For your convenience, here are some highlights of the plan. You will receive more information throughout the remainder of the summer as we finalize all of the hundreds of details required to reopen the campus as safely as possible.
INFORMATION FOR ALL STUDENTS:
- Fall semester classes will begin on Wednesday, August 19, and end on Tuesday, November 24, the day before the Thanksgiving break begins. Students will not return to campus after November 24. However, the semester will not end on November 24. Students will take their last week of classes and their final exams online. Click here to view the full semester calendar.
- To be Pioneers Together, all students, faculty and staff will be required to follow 5 Simple Rules (click here to view them) when on campus. These are the protective and preventive measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the South Carolina Department of Public Health (DHEC): wear masks or face coverings indoors, social distance, practice hand hygiene and track your health.
- Because students and families may be affected by COVID-19 in numerous and unpredictable ways this fall, students will be able to take classes in-person, online or a combination of the two. We'll discuss this in tomorrow's Town Hall, and your professors will contact you prior to the start of classes to explain more.
INFORMATION FOR RESIDENT STUDENTS:
- All resident students will begin a staggered move-in on August 5 that will last through August 17. This will allow us to maintain social distancing while you move into your campus living spaces.
- During staggered move-in, students will reserve a three-hour block of time during which you will move your belongings into your residence hall room. You will not remain on campus after moving into your room but will instead return home until August 17 (First Year students) or August 18 (Continuing Students).
- Students who have applied to live on campus will receive detailed information from Residence Life staff and a link to register for a move-in time in the next few weeks.
- Students who have a medically-diagnosed condition that will make them at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 will be able to apply for a single Residence Hall room. Residence Life staff will contact students soon with the application process.
- While we have a strong plan in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus, no college can guarantee that you will not become infected with the virus. Because living on campus does carry risk of being infected, any student who has registered to live on campus but who would prefer to live off campus will be able to do so with no questions asked. Information about changing from "resident" to "commuter" status will be sent to students soon.
I know reading this email will raise more questions than it answers. We will answer your questions in tomorrow's Town Hall meeting and in upcoming communications. Or, after reading the reopening information on our website, please feel free to reach out at any time to SMC staff via the contact information provided there.
Staff and Faculty:
I am writing to let you know that the Cabinet has completed the college’s reopening plan. You may view it here: https://www.smcsc.edu/response-covid19/. You'll notice a section specifically for Faculty and Staff.
This plan has been reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees. It is organized into four areas of protection: hygiene, masks, social distancing and symptom assessment. These protections are insufficient when performed alone, but when practiced together, are proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
As new information about COVID-19 becomes available from the above public health resources, we will amend the plan to incorporate any shifts in best practices. At all times, we will prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff and faculty. This plan is fluid; however, all members of the campus community who return to the College agree to abide by the requirements outlined below. All members of the campus community must also agree to abide by changes to the plan after reasonable communication of any changes has occurred.
Our fall schedule has been adjusted so that students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving. This is a calendar that many colleges and universities are following in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The total number of days for instruction remains unchanged with the elimination of Fall Break and the continuation of classes and exams remotely after Thanksgiving.
- August 19 – First day of class
- November 24 – Day before Thanksgiving will be the last day for on-campus instruction. Students will move out for the semester.
- November 30 – Dec 4 – Remote instruction
- Dec 5 – Dec 9 – Remote final exams
- There will be no Fall break
Tomorrow’s scheduled Town Hall meeting (11:00 a.m.) will be devoted to an explanation of the plan and will include an opportunity for you to ask questions. I hope you will plan to attend. If you can’t participate, the meeting will be recorded, and the link will be shared via email.
A separate Town Hall meeting will be held for students and parents on Thursday evening. That event will also be recorded. We have not yet notified students about this plan. They’ll be notified on Wednesday.
As you read through the COVID-19 Response website, please keep the following in mind:
- The plan is comprehensive; however, to make it as easy as possible to follow the guidelines put in place to protect everyone’s health, we have created 5 Simple Rules. Everyone will be required to follow them, including students and all campus visitors. If everyone follows the 5 Simple Rules every day, you won’t have to learn pages of procedures. You’ll be doing your part to keep yourself and everyone else as healthy as possible. These are the same rules you are probably already following in your daily routines.
- The 5 Simple Rules are your cheat sheet; however, if you want to read the full plan, it’s located beneath the 5 Simple Rules on the Faculty and Staff page of the plan. We will cover some of that information in tomorrow's meeting. Any employee who has concerns about your personal health status due to underlying medical conditions that place you at higher risk for severe illness if you contract COVID-19, please contact Jenny Dunn in Human Resources.
- For this plan to work, we must have everyone’s full and complete cooperation. We are all going to be responsible to each other. Student Development is working on an enforcement plan for students. Anyone who has a question and isn’t comfortable asking it during the Town Hall meeting is welcome to ask any member of the Cabinet privately. You may also ask Jenny Dunn or your supervisor. I assure you that asking a question won’t be regarded as an unwillingness to comply. We want to be sure you understand what is expected.
- Tomorrow’s Town Hall will be the first opportunity to discuss the plan. We also plan additional meetings to discuss specific aspects of the plan and how they'll be incorporated at SMC.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to tomorrow.
VP for Marketing
SMC courses will be delivered online for the remainder of the semester, through May 6, 2020.
SMC’s Commencement Exercises, originally scheduled for Saturday, May 9, are postponed. College administrators will determine in a few weeks if the event can be safely held later in the spring or summer.
All other college events are cancelled through the end of the semester, including athletic events.
To all faculty and staff,
This morning, the Cabinet met (virtually) to discuss several items. We are also keeping in near-constant communication via text. One of our discussion items was how incredibly proud we are of the way our SMC community is handling this unprecedented situation. The examples of kindness and grace so far are already too numerous to mention. We know everyone is working very hard, very quickly, to adapt and carry on. Thank you!
You can continue to adapt by making sure that you and your teams are NOT coming to campus unless absolutely necessary. We recognize that many of you need to be on campus for small-group IT training this week. We know our Facilities and Campus Safety heroes must be on campus for the duration. But no other offices or departments should have anyone on campus to do routine work. All processes should be carried on remotely starting now. If you're unsure how to do that, please contact your supervisor or the VP for your area. Ask for help - there are a lot of good ideas and advice/support right here in our community.
To make sure there is no confusion: there are no offices/departments/areas on campus that need to be constantly staffed other than those mentioned above. Everyone else should be working from home.
Today at 5 p.m., the Buchheit Administration Building will close. Business Office, Admissions, Financial Aid, and Registrar functions have been, and will continue to be, managed remotely. Signs will be placed on the doors of the building indicating who visitors should contact (by phone/email) if they need assistance. We will also put that information on the website home page. The campus switchboard will also advise callers that Administrative functions are being managed remotely and where callers can get immediate assistance.
Keep communicating with each other. Share ideas, check email frequently, learn how to text with your co-workers, and explore Microsoft Teams - it's available to all of us and is incredibly simple to use for file sharing, video conferencing, chat and much more. It's available, along with dozens of other useful apps, by logging in with your SMC email address and password at www.office.com.
At this time, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 among SMC faculty, staff or students.
Spring Break has been extended until March 20 and residence halls are closed to all students except those with prior permission to remain.
There will be no classes held March 16 - March 20.
Classes will be held online from March 23-April 3.
All events are canceled through April 5, including athletic events.
Residence Halls will reopen on Sunday, April 5.
SMC will hold on-ground classes again beginning Monday, April 6.
Staff are working remotely. Visitors to campus are advised to call or email a specific department before arriving.
View the Campus Directory here.
A message from the President
Students, faculty and staff:
College administrators continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. Each day, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reports new cases of the disease in our state. As community spread of the illness becomes more likely, we must make decisions now to protect your health and safety and the well-being of the most vulnerable among us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends colleges and universities consider the temporary suspension of classes to help prevent the spread of the disease. In consultation with the Provost, Cabinet and our Emergency Management Team, I have decided to extend Spring Break through Friday, March 20. After March 20, classes will be held online for the following two weeks, March 23-April 3. Campus will reopen on Sunday, April 5, and on-ground classes will resume on Monday, April 6.
Additional information regarding the extension:
- No classes will be held during the week of March 16-20.
- Residence halls will remain closed through April 4. Exceptions include student athletes who have permission from coaches to remain on campus or return to campus. Additionally, there is a very small group of non-student athletes who already have prior permission to remain on campus through Spring Break. No other students will be permitted to return to residence halls for the extended break.
- Administrative Offices will be open and operating on a normal schedule.
- During the extended Spring Break, faculty will prepare courses to be moved online.
- All campus events are canceled beginning March 13.
- Athletic events are not canceled. Anyone attending athletic events on campus is reminded to observe the illness prevention measures advised by the CDC.
- Students will receive a separate communication regarding an opportunity to return to campus briefly to pick up any needed items from residence hall rooms.
- Spring Open House, scheduled for March 21, has been postponed. A new date and time will be announced.
Students, to help move courses online, we need to know which devices you currently own or have access to. Please take this survey before Sunday, March 15.
There is no simple way to handle this unprecedented situation. I appreciate your cooperation as we work through the hundreds of details required to continue providing an education and a safe living and working environment in the face of a massive public health crisis. We believe this is the right step to take at this time, with the information we have available. We will continue to evaluate and make decisions as this situation progresses.
New information will be sent to students, faculty and staff as it becomes available. Please monitor your SMC email account often over the coming days.
President Scott Cochran
A Message to Parents from President Scott Cochran
As SMC students and faculty prepare for a well-deserved Spring Break that runs from March 9 through March 13, I want to take a moment to update you on SMC's response to coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
If you've been following reports in the news media or from the major public health organizations, you know that the virus has begun spreading in communities in the United States. You also know that new confirmed cases can appear quickly. SMC's administrators are monitoring credible, official sources of information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the U.S. Department of State (regarding international travel). We expect there will be confirmed cases, and we are taking all appropriate steps to ensure we are prepared if and when those confirmed cases are announced in our state. The well-being of our students is our highest priority.
We are following the CDC's current recommended guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus on college and university campuses by encouraging our students, faculty and staff to take the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid contact with respiratory secretions.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Self-isolate if you become sick.
Regarding travel, we have asked students, faculty and staff to let us know of any plans to travel during Spring Break and for the remainder of the semester. If you plan to travel by plane or by cruise ship over Spring Break with your SMC student, consider checking with them to ensure they have completed the travel registry. All members of the SMC community have been advised to view the CDC's guidelines for travelers.
I know this can be a time of heightened anxiety and stress, but be reassured we have taken the necessary steps to prepare, which include:
- Established an Emergency Management Team to review, update and, if necessary, implement the college’s pandemic response plan
- Ensured processes are in place for maintaining campus operations in the event of a widespread outbreak in our community
- Added the recommended additional cleaning and sanitizing steps to the custodial team’s already excellent care of campus.
We have also added a web page where parents and others may see the communications we have shared campus-wide.
We will continue to inform the campus community as the situation develops. Please encourage your student to monitor their SMC email account for new information or instructions.
It is my sincere hope that all of our students, faculty and their families have a safe, healthy and relaxing Spring Break and an outstanding semester.
President Scott Cochran
Spartanburg Methodist College
Students and employees:
This afternoon, the Emergency Management Team for the COVID-19 virus met to discuss plans for keeping the campus community safe and informed during this rapidly developing situation.
At this time, the team is:
- Monitoring credible sources of information regarding COVID-19 spread
- Reviewing and updating the college’s pandemic response plan
- Ensuring processes are in place for maintaining campus operations in the event of a widespread outbreak in our community
- Adding additional cleaning and sanitizing steps to the custodial team’s already excellent care of campus
- Notifying the campus community about proper hygiene and preventive measures they can take right now.
As new information becomes available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SC DHEC or the Spartanburg County Health Department, we will incorporate it into our planning and processes and communicate all necessary information to you.
In the meantime, here’s what to do if you develop respiratory symptoms that include fever, coughing or shortness of breath:
- SMC students may visit campus Health Services or see their regular doctor or healthcare provider.
- Health Services hours and contact information are here.
- SMC employees should see their regular doctor or healthcare provider.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully.
- Take steps to avoid close contact with others when you’re sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
A reminder to submit Travel Registry information if you will be traveling by plane or by cruise ship during Spring Break (March 9-13) or the remainder of the semester.
Students and employees,
On Monday, the college’s Leadership Team met to discuss and prepare SMC’s response to the COVID-19 virus. So far, cases of the flu-like illness have been confirmed in twelve states, including Florida. At this time, there are no confirmed cases in South Carolina.
SMC’s first priority is the safety of its students, faculty and staff. An Emergency Management Team has been established to monitor this rapidly evolving situation, to review and update the college’s pandemic response plan to ensure college operations continue if the virus spreads into our community and to communicate all necessary and appropriate information.
Right now, preventing the spread of the virus is the best action you can take. There is no vaccine for COVID-19. Preventive measures are the same as for seasonal flu and other illnesses:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If a tissue isn’t available, cough into your elbow.
If you plan to travel by plane or cruise ship during Spring Break or at any time between now and May 9, 2020, please fill out the travel registry here.
Please check your SMC email frequently for new updates and information from the Emergency Management Team or college administrators.
Thank you for providing your travel plans via SMC’s Travel Registry. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip, and to take reasonable precautions to protect your health during travel and upon your return to SMC.
The COVID-19 disease, which causes flu-like illness that ranges from mild to severe, is appearing in many countries around the world, including the United States. Efforts are underway to try and prevent the spread of the disease. You can help that effort by taking a few minutes to understand how you can protect yourself while traveling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides detailed information for travelers, and we ask that you monitor that site and pay attention to any local news advisories in your destination state or country before and during your trip.
Please make sure you are able to check your SMC email account while traveling. If you do not know how to check SMC email via your mobile phone, visit the IT office (second floor of the Burgess Student Center) before you leave. They can help you set up your phone to access SMC email.
Preventive actions to take now, during travel and after your return:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with hands that have not been cleaned.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an appropriate-sized alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• On a plane, keep the air vents above your seat open to improve ventilation. Point the open vent to blow air away from you.
• Toss sanitary wipes in your carry-on bag and wipe down your seat’s arm rests and tray table with them. Bring tissues to open the bathroom door.
• Ask a flight attendant if it's possible to switch seats to move away from a sick passenger.
What to do if you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19:
First, stay calm. Most people who contract the disease do not develop severe illness. Monitor your health, continue to take the preventive measures above, and see a healthcare provider immediately if you develop the following symptoms:
• Fever, cough, difficulty breathing
What to do if you become sick with a flu-like illness while traveling:
Again, stay calm. If you become sick while traveling, your first priority is your health.
1. See a local healthcare provider if you become sick, especially if you experience fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Follow their instructions.
2. After you see a healthcare provider, email Gina Robertson, College Nurse, at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is keeping information about students, faculty and staff who become ill. She can also advise you on what to do when you return to SMC.
Students: If you must delay your return trip to recover from any illness, please do the following:
• Contact your SMC class instructors to let them know you will miss class. You can find a directory with contact information here.
• Monitor your SMC email for information regarding the virus or new instructions for travelers.
• Continue monitoring local information and the CDC website for travel notices and alerts.
What to do after returning to SMC:
• COVID-19 has an estimated 2- to 14-day incubation period, so continue to monitor your health.
• Practice the preventive measures above.
• If you become sick, visit campus Health Services or your regular family physician. Information about campus Health Services hours and location is here.
• Stay home if you become sick.
• Students should alert class instructors using the contact information in the SMC campus: https://www.smcsc.edu/directory/
• Check your SMC email frequently to stay-up-to-date on important health-related information.
Thank you for taking steps to protect your health and the health of others. And enjoy your Spring Break or other planned travel!
SMC students and employees:
College administrators are closely monitoring the progression of the COVID-19 disease which has been responsible for widespread flu-like illness in China. At this time, there are confirmed cases of the illness in over 40 countries, including the United States. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
As of February 28, there are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 illness in South Carolina. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of contracting the illness is low for anyone who has not recently traveled to China or who has not had contact with someone who is a lab-confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
Students, faculty and staff planning to travel by plane or on cruise ships during Spring Break (March 9-13) may be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 because of closed conditions on flights/ships and/or travel in countries or states where the virus may already be present. Further, all members of the SMC community are advised that traveling abroad may result in a 14-day quarantine upon return to the U.S. Please stay up-to-date on the latest CDC information regarding travel here.
The virus is likely to continue spreading for the remainder of the spring and into the summer months.
It is important that our community begin preparing now for the possibility of widespread illness in the U.S. and South Carolina. We ask that all students, faculty and staff who are planning travel inside or outside of the United States by plane or by cruise ship between today and May 9, 2020 register your travel plans here:
Please submit the form by Friday, March 6.
The information contained in the form will be used only to quickly assist members of the SMC community who may be at risk of contracting the virus and to help reduce the potential for spreading the virus to other members of the community.
All students, faculty and staff are advised to read the Health Alert on the College’s Health Services website for a list of symptoms and everyday precautions you can take now to help protect yourself and others from the COVID-19 virus (as well as other diseases such as the seasonal flu).
Any member of the SMC community who has questions about the virus may contact Gina Robertson, College Nurse and Director of Health Services, at 864-587-4277 or email@example.com.
Please note: this is the first in a series of communications regarding the COVID-19 virus. College administrators are working to continuously monitor and respond to this rapidly developing situation. More information will follow.