Rider University is on track to re-open for the 2020-21 academic year, but it will be a different experience for new and returning students as the university continues to face the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The Fall 2020 Planning Task Force, which included more than 70 administrators, faculty members, staff and students, prepared Rider University’s “Resolved and Ready” plan, which outlines guidelines for the college’s re-opening next month.
“The past few months have presented an array of challenges, and created a climate of uncertainty in our daily lives. Resolved and Ready speaks to the agility we all must embrace in order to maintain a safe and vibrant learning environment for the fall,” said Rider University President Greg Dell’Omo and Kelly Bidle, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be stocked and made available to the campus community, university officials said. The classrooms will be deep cleaned more frequently.
The fall semester will begin earlier and end earlier, officials said. Classes will begin Aug. 31, which is one week earlier than usual. Classes will end Nov. 24 to allow students time to move out of the dormitories. There will be one week of remote instruction after Thanksgiving break. The J-term, or January term, will be taught remotely. It is not known definitively how the spring term will be handled.
Fall semester classes will be delivered in one of three ways – fully remote, fully in-person or a hybrid. “Light hybrid” means up to six in-person meetings during the semester, and “heavy hybrid” means seven or more in-person meetings. The rest of the instruction will be delivered remotely.
Classrooms will be reconfigured to allow for social distancing between students and professors. Students will be required to wear a face mask in the classroom. Professors have the option not to wear a face mask, if they stand behind the plexiglass shield that will be installed in the classroom, or if they use a face shield.
Freshmen and sophomores have the option to live on campus. Rider is suspending its residency requirement for freshmen and sophomores. Students who live with family within a 30-mile radius of the university have always been exempt from having to live on campus.
Students who choose to live on campus may live with a roommate, but “as room assignments are confirmed during the summer, Residence Life will identify all vacancies and maximize access to single rooms,” the Resolved and Ready plan states.
Students must wear a face mask when they go the cafeteria. They may remove the mask when they are ready to eat and place it back on their faces when they have finished eating.
The cafeteria and other on campus eating establishments will be set up to allow for social distancing between students, servers and staff. Plexiglass shields will be set up at the transaction areas, and there will be no self-serve food.
Anticipating that students may develop COVID-19 or may be exposed to someone who has COVID-19, administrators have developed a plan to address the issues. This includes contact tracing for campus community members who have have been exposed to COVID-19. Students are required to report symptoms or exposure to the Student Health Center.
Students who develop COVID-19 will be asked to go home for the required isolation period. If they cannot go home, they will be placed in isolation at the Lawrence Township campus, which can accommodate up to 12 students, or at the Princeton campus at the Westminster Choir College, which can handle up to 10 students.
Students who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 may be placed in quarantine. The student may be asked to go home or to move to a different residential facility for up to 14 days. There is room for up to 72 students to be placed in quarantine on campus.
Rider’s Resolved and Ready plan will be updated as the COVID-19 circumstances evolve and new information becomes available, officials said.
“The plan provides a framework that incorporates the best practices and recommendations that exist in higher education,” Dell’Omo said.
He acknowledged that “the challenges are daunting,” but said they can be overcome.
“Every dimension of the Rider experience will be affected by it, but it alone won’t ensure success. Achieving success is going to take the commitment and persistence of every individual working together in a spirit of resolution and flexibility,” Dell’Omo said.