Return to Campus FAQ

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Screening and Testing

Will students be required to quarantine themselves before coming back to campus?

We ask that students self-quarantine beginning on Jan. 6 before returning to campus. It is a big request during the holiday season, but it is one of the most important steps students can take to keep themselves and our entire campus safe. During this time before coming back to campus, we ask you to:

  • Stay home as much as possible. If you must leave home, avoid close contact with others, keeping six feet of physical distance.
  • Avoid large crowds, parties, bars and other places where there is a high risk for exposure.
  • Wear a face covering indoors, and also outdoors when 6 feet of physical distance is not possible.
  • Limit non-essential travel.
  • Conduct daily health screenings and temperature checks.
  • Regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your face and cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or face covering.
  • Make every effort to comply with the immunization requirements set by the ACHA.
  • Student-athletes, please follow instructions from your coach and sport-specific guidelines.
How will Alma College decide if and when to close campus and shift to online classes again? Is there a threshold of positive cases the college is using to guide its decision-making?

There is not a specific threshold that will trigger a change. COVID-19 is a fluid situation. The college will rely on guidance from local, state and federal health officials and other experts at that time. In the case of COVID-19 spread, they will provide guidance on next steps, which could include sheltering in place, quarantining some or all of campus, and/or shifting to remote course delivery. We will continue to evaluate the situation and respond as needed to protect the health and safety of our campus community.

I’m a student who has a job off-campus. Am I allowed to continue working?

At this time, off-campus employment by students living on-campus requires prior approval. Request approval for off-campus employment by submitting the Off-Campus Employment Survey. Submissions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In general, employment involving substantial public interaction that occurs more than 10 miles from Alma will only be approved under limited, specific circumstances.

We understand the vital role that employment can play in your college experience. If you currently work outside the Alma area, we would like to assist you in securing an on-campus job as an alternative. Please contact the Career and Personal Development team at careerdevelopment@alma.edu for more information.

I’ve received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Do I still need to do the same things as everyone else on campus with respect to COVID-19 mitigation: quarantine, wearing a face covering, social distancing and other policies?

All students must continue to wear face coverings, maintain social distance and abide by other policies regardless of their vaccination status.

However, vaccinated people with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., more than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or more than two weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine).
  • Are within three months following receipt of the last dose in the series.
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

Students who do not meet all three of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Housing and Residence Life

I have heard Alma College is starting its winter term in Phase 1 of its Phased Guest Policy. What does that mean?

Phase 1 means there will be no guests or visitors are permitted in college-owned housing and no social events in college-owned housing. After March 1, the college may enter Phase II of the Phased Guest Policy if specific criteria are met and maintained. You can read more about the Phased Guest Policy here.

Can I visit people who aren’t students? Can I go home to see my family over the weekend?

If you are living in on-campus housing, we ask that you not return home or travel outside the greater Alma area for any reason, for the first four weeks of the term.

We plan to allow students to return home on the fifth weekend of the term (Feb. 20-21, 2021). That weekend will be immediately followed by campus-wide testing. After the fifth week of the term, this policy will be re-evaluated for renewal.

I have a job that requires me to leave the house. Can I still work after Jan. 6 but before I return to campus?

If you need to leave home for employment, you can do so. Please follow the CDC safety guidelines on face covering, hand-washing, and social distancing while at work and stay home as much as possible outside of work hours.

How is the college going to enforce these policies?

Our enforcement of COVID-related policies will be tailored to each incident. As a general principle, we will follow our existing policy enforcement procedures and are not adding additional measures.

Will everyone truly be required to take their temperature every day? What should I do if I feel sick?

Every day, before leaving their residence, all members of the campus community — students (both residential and those living off campus), faculty and staff — must record their temperature and complete risk screening questions in a Daily Screening Form. The college provides a thermometer to all students.

Any person who indicates risk factors on the Daily Screening Form will contacted by the Wilcox Medical Center (students) or Human Resources (faculty and staff)

Anyone who is sick or has symptoms must stay at home or in their residence hall room and contact the Wilcox Medical Center at (989) 463-7181, as well as the Mid-Michigan District Health Department at (989) 875-3681. Quarantine and isolation protocol will be followed, if necessary.

To monitor travel off-campus, students living on campus must complete their daily health screening on campus Wifi each day.

What will happen if someone on campus tests positive for COVID-19?

A person who has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not they are displaying symptoms, is required to go into isolation, which separates sick people from the general population and severely limits their movement.

Will COVID-19 testing be available on campus?

COVID-19 testing is a part of the winter return to campus process for faculty, staff, contract employees, and students. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, via a nasal swab, will be conducted by medical technicians from an independent laboratory. There is no cost to you for this testing.

I read that the college is testing wastewater on campus for COVID-19. I have privacy concerns about that — will the college be testing wastewater for anything besides COVID-19?

We are cognizant of privacy concerns raised by testing wastewater. However, wastewater alone will not identify individuals who have COVID-19 — it will only help identify from which area on campus the wastewater came. The college is only testing wastewater for the presence of COVID-19, not any other medical conditions or substances.

What should I do if I have safety concerns about returning to campus?

While the vast majority of our students are eager to return to campus, we recognize some students may have individual concerns regarding the pandemic and their return to campus. If you have individual questions or want to inquire about making changes to your winter plans in regards to your coursework, your residency, and/or your plans to return in response to the pandemic and the college’s reopening plans, please contact Phil Andre, Assistant Director of Academic Support.

Will the college refund of room and board charges if it stops offering in-person classes and/or students are forced to leave campus due to the pandemic?

Yes. The amount of the refund provided will be based on a number of factors, including the amount of time remaining in the term, fixed costs and expenses, and our overall ability to provide housing and services to students. The minimum amount the college would refund is $25 per day.

I have an appointment to see a medical (physical or mental) professional located outside the greater Alma area within the first four weeks of the winter term. Can I still go to this appointment?

Yes. You can travel outside of the greater Alma area to see a medical professional at any time. We do not require documentation of any medical visit or travel.

We do, however, ask that you reduce your travel to the bare minimum — ideally, traveling to their office and then right back to campus — without making extra stops along the way that could increase your exposure to others.

Face Coverings and Social Distancing

Will face coverings be required when I go back to campus?

Everyone (students, faculty, staff and guests) must wear a face covering on the Alma College campus. Face coverings are not required in certain situations, including being outdoors and eating. However, in classrooms and elsewhere at Alma, the college requires everyone able to medically tolerate a face covering to wear a covering over their nose and mouth. The policy will be enforced throughout campus. 

Students or employees who cannot wear a face covering due to medical or other reasons should contact Disability Support Services or Human Resources to begin the process of requesting accommodations.

How will we maintain social distance in my classes?

In order to maintain our on-campus environment as much as possible during this time — including relationships with faculty, individualized attention and customized learning opportunities — we have adapted every class to meet safety guidelines from health officials.

Most smaller classes (typically those with fewer than 20 students) will continue to meet in traditional classrooms. Others will run on an alternating schedule, with part of the class attending one day and the rest attending on another day, while others will meet synchronously in a mixture of online and in-person instruction. A small selection of classes will meet entirely online, to best meet the needs of students.

To meet social distancing regulations, some larger classes may meet in an alternative teaching space like Dunning Memorial Chapel, Presbyterian Hall, Strosacker Theatre and open spaces in the library.

Information regarding the location and schedule for each of your classes will be clearly communicated by the Registrar’s Office and available in Self Service.

We also students not to move furniture that has been placed in classrooms. You’ll likely notice “A” stickers underneath most desks — that’s a sign that the desks are spaced six feet apart. Signs are also posted indicating each room’s maximum occupancy.

While walking in indoor facilities, we encourage everyone to keep right in stairwells and hallways and not to gather at entrances. Whenever possible, one door will be used as an entrance and another as an exit.

What should I do if someone near me isn’t wearing a face covering?

Plaid protects when we accept our personal responsibility to take care of each other. At Alma, wearing a face covering is not a political statement — it’s something we take seriously because we want to help each other stay healthy. Face coverings are required for people who are indoors and if you see someone not wearing one, you can (politely) ask them to do so. Everyone at Alma is expected to abide by the same rules and (politely) put their face covering back on when it’s pointed out to them. If you’re in this situation and someone refuses to put their face covering on, contact someone in authority and they can assist. Don’t escalate the situation or take matters in your own hands.

I see a student, or a group of students, who are not observing the college’s Plaid Protects plan — either by not social distancing, not wearing face coverings, or something else all together. I’ve informed them that they are in violation of the policy, then educated them about why it is important, but they are continuing to do it. How can I report this incident to someone at the college?

You can call the administrator on duty (AOD) at (989) 560-5972, Campus Safety at (989) 463-7777, or submit a form through Guardian.

Classrooms and Instruction

Can I choose to have online-only classes in the winter term?

Some students may request permission not to be on campus and take online-only courses, depending on which courses they are taking. Students who wish to request permission not to be on campus should contact Phil Andre, Assistant Director of Academic Support, to begin the process.

Has the college made any improvements to online learning?

Last summer, we upgraded our learning management system to Canvas, which provides a more user-friendly, intuitive experience for students. Canvas enables better access to course materials and improved communication between students and faculty.

The college has also invested in Owls, which allow students who are present in the classroom to engage in discussion with those attending class virtually. Google microphones in each classroom facilitates better audio for students who are attending class virtually.

Will the college be offering study abroad courses this year?

Alma College’s Student International Travel Policy prohibits college-related student travel to locations that have an elevated risk rating from Europ Assistance (which coordinates insurance and emergency assistance for college-related international travel) and to any locations with a U.S. Department of State travel advisory greater than Level 2 (“Exercise increased caution”). Due to the US Department of State global Level 4 (“Do not travel”) advisory, Alma College study abroad programs have been suspended for the winter 2020 semester.

How will office hours be handled? Academic student support services? Performing arts?

Faculty are holding office hours either in person or virtually, depending on faculty and student preferences. When visiting any office to seek assistance in person, students should wear a face covering and abide by social distancing guidelines.

Staff in academic student support offices, including tutoring, career services and the writing center, are offering some services virtually.

Most performing arts events have been moved to smaller scale performances, and many of them are live-streamed to allow for a larger audience to attend. Choir and band rehearsals are now staggered, with smaller groups of students attending each day.

Will I need my own laptop to successfully complete my coursework this semester?

Although, having your own computer is not required, you will find it helpful to have a fully-functioning laptop with a webcam and microphone and adequate battery life. Please note, because of their limited functionality, Chromebooks are not recommended. Inside the classroom, in order to facilitate interactive learning while maintaining adequate social distancing, you’ll find it helpful to use a laptop for group work, readings, and activities. Outside the classroom, you may use your laptop to join some class sessions remotely, virtually meet with faculty, academic support staff, and classmates, to access Canvas, and to complete and submit assignments.

You’ll have access to on-campus computer labs, and a limited number of laptops will be available daily for four-hour checkout periods. If you have individual technology access concerns or are interested in the possibility of accessing a low-cost semester-long rental laptop, please contact Phil Andre, Assistant Director of Academic Support.

Shared Community Spaces

Is the rec center open? How about the Alma College Bookstore and Starbucks? The Heritage Center?

The Alan J. Stone Recreation Center is open to current students, faculty, and staff. Hours of operation are: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The bookstore and Starbucks are open. Starbucks is closed for sit-down service — only take-out food and drinks are allowed. Customers are required to wear a face covering when inside the store.

We plan to have performances for the upcoming term at the Heritage Center, albeit with smaller audiences and mechanisms in place to provide for the health and safety of all in attendance.

Athletics

Will there be winter sports?

The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), of which Alma College is a member, previously announced a plan for fall sports to be played in the winter term. Winter sports will be played concurrently with fall sports. You can read this announcement here.

Will student-athletes still be able to return early to begin training and/or practices?

Student-athletes should communicate directly with their team coaching staff for next steps.

What will practices look like and what will be permitted in the way of small-group work or skill training?

Sport-specific activities will be dictated by the NCAA’s guidance on return to play. There will be benchmarks and dates for the activities. Alma College Athletics will work to establish a firm set of expectations for each sport as they return to campus.

What will practices look like and what will be permitted in the way of small-group work or skill training?

Sport-specific activities will be dictated by the NCAA’s guidance on return to play. There will be benchmarks and dates for the activities. Alma College Athletics will work to establish a firm set of expectations for each sport as they return to campus.

What will student-athletes need to do before they are able to practice?  

Along with the requirements put forth by the college, the expectation is that each student-athlete will have a pre-participation physical prior to returning to any organized practice. Alma College Athletics will provide guidance for availability and options to get this physical exam here on campus or via telehealth options.

How will practicing affect a student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility?  

The NCAA has issued a blanket waiver for all sports during the 2020-21 academic year. The waiver states that Division III student-athletes will not be charged with participation for the 2020-21 season if their team competes in 50 percent or less of the sport’s maximum contests/dates of competition due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, each student-athlete will not be charged for the semesters in which they practice, as long as the sport meets these criteria.

What happens if we have a positive test result on our team?

Student-athletes, coaches or athletics staff who test positive must follow isolation protocols and will be asked to assist with contact tracing. COVID-19 medical care, quarantine and isolation protocol, and contract tracing will be coordinated by the Wilcox Medical Center staff and the local health department. A positive test triggers exclusion from team activities. Clearance for returning to athletics will be given after a thorough evaluation by the college’s head team physician.

Dining Services

How has on-campus dining changed?

We now offer contact-less payment and food ordering through the Bite University app, which has replaced the Bite app. Using the Bite University app allows students to see their food options on campus and where to find it, then skip the rush and pick it up.

Other safety-related changes include:

  • In-person dining at Starbucks is currently closed. New signage regarding social distancing and other messages have been installed.
  • In order to reduce crowd sizes, we are offering several locations for individuals to pick up a meal to go; including Hamilton, Joe’s (relocated to North Van Dusen), Dow Cart and Hogan Lobby. Pre-ordering is only available at Joe’s.
  • To improve safety and further reduce crowd sizes, in-person dining in Hamilton is now limited to students and certain college guests only. Faculty and staff can still utilize meals to-go from Hamilton.
  • Offerings at the Dow Cart are being expanded to allow for more dining options.
  • Plexiglass partitions are being used at every cash stand. Plexiglass has also been installed at every table in Hamilton.
I’m a prospective student. Can I still visit campus?

Yes! There have been a few changes. Prior to your visit, you will receive the following communications from the Admissions Office: a registration confirmation email, an email that outlines additional precautions/steps for the visit and a call the day before to answer pre-screening questions. On the day of your visit, you will check in at the Reid-Knox Administration building (which houses the Admissions Office) and call 1-800-321-2562 to complete a COVID-19 screening before entering the building. Outdoor seating is provided (with indoor options for inclement weather) and check-in equipment will be sanitized before and after every visit. Single-serving refreshments are available and there will be no-contact greetings.

Personal protective equipment is available for visitors upon request. Face coverings are required inside all buildings and guests must socially distance from one another and staff.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Will hand sanitizer and disinfectant be available on campus?

In classrooms, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are available for use during the day. Hand sanitizer is available at all main entrances to buildings and will be maintained. In residence halls, hand sanitizer is available at all main entrances to buildings and will be maintained. Cleaning wipes are provided in each bathroom.

Additionally, staff are continuously cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and restrooms multiple times per day, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Is the college taking on any additional cleaning and disinfecting procedures?

In classrooms, staff are continuously cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and restrooms multiple times per day during academic hours in common areas, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All classrooms are being disinfected every night. In residence halls, staff are continuously cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and restrooms multiple times per day during all shifts, and providing additional weekend coverage.

Financial Assistance

Does the college offer financial assistance for students and families impacted by COVID-19? ?

You can request this assistance through the process outlined below:

Submit a letter from the student explaining your COVID-19-related hardship and its negative financial impact. The letter should state who (student and/or parent) has experienced the financial hardship, how much income has been lost, and it must be hand signed and dated. Letters should be submitted to Alma College’s financial aid submission uploads.

Other

How can college groups seek permission to travel outside of the greater Alma area?

College sponsored travel outside of the mid-Michigan area, with appropriate COVID-19 response planning, may be approved by college administration. Proposals must be submitted by a faculty or staff member to their sector vice president. Alan Gatlin (gatlin@alma.edu) and Amanda Slenski (slenskiar@alma.edu) are available to assist with the planning process.

Why has the college limited travel for current students while still welcoming prospective students and families to campus?

As you may have experienced yourself, a campus visit is a critical part of a student’s college search process. The admissions team has created a plan to ensure that all campus visits are done as safely as possible for all involved.

  • All guests are screened prior to their arrival on campus and screened again for COVID symptoms and exposure at the time of their arrival.
  • Visits are limited to only activities that cannot be done virtually, like a campus tour.
  • Only one family may be on tour at a time with a staff member and all guests must always be masked and socially distance from those outside of their household while on campus.
  • Only the Alma staff member (student or professional staff) may touch surfaces Surfaces are disinfected frequently — housekeeping staff are aware of the route and specifically target the needed areas.
  • There are pathways for the entry into and out of any building on the tour (building entry is very limited) that have been determined to minimize contact with community members as much as possible and no indoor gathering is allowed.
Why are limited spectators allowed at some college events but not others?

Campus events and the policies that govern their attendance differ in several ways during the COVID-19 pandemic: performance/competition type, venue size and ventilation, cleaning and restroom capabilities, interaction with other parts of campus, and the need to comply with other outside organizational standards like the NCAA.

At this time, the fine and performing arts are currently able to host small, in-person audiences of students, faculty and staff at some events.

In February 2021, the Alma College athletics department released spectator policies for both outdoor and indoor venues, which are consistent with NCAA guidelines.

Several areas of campus, including music, theatre and dance, are currently working on plans similar to athletics that would allow parents/guardians to also attend some performances. We will continue to share new policies as they become available.

Why do travel policies differ between employees (faculty and staff) and students?

Through our COVID-19 testing and contact tracing in fall 2020, we learned that most cases existed within the student population from the spread of the virus outside class and other organized activities. Further, we learned that many times this resulted from a student traveling home, inadvertently contracting the virus, and then spreading it to friends on campus. Virtually no spread occurred from faculty/staff to students, or from one faculty/staff to another.

For these reasons, we are asking students to remain in the greater Alma area except for designated weekends, when they will be free to travel to and from home. Recognizing that these policies can be challenging for students accustomed to traveling home more regularly, we have worked to put in place additional weekend social programming and enhanced mental health supports through Wilcox Medical Center.

Students who feel especially challenged by this schedule and wish to explore a switch to online learning should contact Phil Andre, Assistant Director of Academic Support..

All faculty and staff are expected to comply with the college’s community standards and testing procedures.