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Franklin College releases plan for fall return to campus

Updated: Aug 7

'Fortify Franklin' plan outlines safety procedures to limit COVID-19 spread

By Erica Irish


Franklin College released Monday a 22-page plan to return to campus this fall after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a sudden move to online classes in the spring.

The “Fortify Franklin” plan confirms students will return to campus for in-person classes as scheduled Aug. 31 while adhering to several new guidelines designed to limit COVID-19 spread, including mandatory masks, quarantine procedures, self-monitoring for symptoms and more.

In a video message also sent to students Monday, Franklin College President Kerry Prather said much of the plan’s implementation is up to students. He urged them to read the full plan and to watch for further messages from the college in the coming weeks.

“We are counting on you to embrace changes of habit and assume personal responsibility so we can all make our way safely to the other side of this pandemic,” Prather said.

Here’s an overview of what Franklin College students can expect with the return to campus.

Mandatory Masks

The first part of the plan notes students are required to wear masks or face coverings.

Though the plan lists several exceptions — masks aren’t required if a student is outside and can maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance, for example, or if they are working in an office or room not shared with others — face coverings will be required most of the time.

Meetings, Classes and Attendance

While students and faculty will return to the classroom under the current plan, it also makes several important changes.

The plan notes faculty should allow a minimum of one absence per credit hour in their classes without a penalty to students. Additionally, if students can provide a doctor’s note for an absence, the plan says they should not be penalized for missing class. The plan adds students are required to see a doctor if they miss three consecutive class days due to illness before returning to the classroom.

Faculty are encouraged to hold office hours virtually, for one, and appointments that can’t be held online must take place in a room that can accommodate social distancing.

Classroom spaces have been adjusted to include physical distance requirements, and the plan asks that furniture not be moved from its original layout during class.

Quarantine and Isolation

The Fortify Franklin plan outlines two scenarios for individuals who might have been exposed to or contracted COVID-19.

The first scenario — isolation — would require the student or employee to completely separate themselves if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. The length of the isolation will be up to local health officials. The second scenario is called quarantine, a plan that will separate students and employees who are well but who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

If an individual is notified by the Johnson County Health Department or state contact tracers of possible exposure to COVID-19, they will be required to quarantine, according to the plan. But a quarantine can also be recommended “at the discretion of the college nurse.”

The plan notes any student who is required to quarantine or isolate must notify Resident Life or Health Services on campus. From here, the campus nurse will help the student obtain a COVID-19 test, either in Johnson County or elsewhere.

Depending on the time of day, a chain of staff and faculty will be notified of the student’s potential exposure and next steps, which all depend on if a student lives in a residence hall, in a fraternity house or off-campus residence.

Isolation only ends if a student is able to show they’ve had no fever for at least 24 hours, their other symptoms have improved and that it’s been at least 10 days since the first symptoms appeared. Quarantine will end after 14 days.

The Fortify Franklin plan includes several safety requirements designed to limit COVID-19 spread when students return to campus, including mandatory masks, modified course attendance policies and social distancing. Photo provided by Franklin College.

Campus Events and Regulating Visitors

Guests or visitors — which the plan defines as “anyone who does not possess a valid Franklin College ID” — are not allowed in college-owned buildings unless approved by the president.

Visitors are prohibited from eating in the campus dining hall for the time being, but the college plans to make exceptions for prospective students during official campus visits.

Off-Campus Learning and Travel

In line with last week’s announcement by the Office of Global Education that all planned travel for the 2021 Immersive Term is cancelled, the Fortify Franklin plan notes travel will be limited for the time being. Athletes and some students approved to travel may still take overnight trips, but only if they follow social distancing guidelines and other new procedures.

Off-campus learning opportunities, including internships, are suspended unless a student needs the experience to graduate on time. Students will have to obtain approval from the president and other campus officials, such as the director of career development, before starting in-person. The plan recommends these opportunities take place online for all other students.

Student Athletes

Before participating in a sport, Franklin College student athletes will have to complete a screening process.

Part of this process includes a medical screening, which surveys the student athletes with questions related to COVID-19 and potential exposure. Student athletes will also be required to complete a daily symptom-check survey. If they fail to do so, they won’t be allowed to participate in intercollegiate activities that day.

Non student-athletes will follow a similar process when dining on campus or if they are involved in any campus organizations, and all students will have to complete a daily symptom check.

Prather clarified in an email that specific processes outside of student athletics were not included in the first verion of the plan because the student athlete section “applied to such a large percentage” of Franklin College students and “because athletic activities include some unique dynamics which require unique mitigation.”

Sanitization Stations and Cleaning

Students will find 24 sanitation stations across campus when they return, according to the plan, where they will be able to access extra gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and other material.

The plan also includes extensive procedures for cleaning and disinfecting shared spaces. Disinfectant wipes will be available for personal use in areas like computer labs, for instance, so students can clean off keyboards and other frequently touched surfaces before using them.

Next Steps

Prather confirmed in an email the college will resume class with no changes to the academic calendar. Some Indiana colleges and universities opted to change their planned calendars, for example, to limit how much students return home and move around the country.

Ball State University, for example, will not have a fall break and will hold classes on Labor Day. All classes and finals are expected to be held remotely after Thanksgiving. Other colleges and universities, including the University of Indianapolis and more, have made similar schedule adjustments.

Prather said a similar change wouldn’t necessarily work for Franklin College because the fall semester typically lasts several weeks after Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean the college has ruled out changes to the calendar, Prather said — there are several contingency plans already developed the college can use if a change is needed.

And protocols for several big scheduled events have yet to be released, including specific plans for Welcome Week to introduce first-year students to campus and recruitment for Greek life. It also remains unclear what plans might look like for the rescheduled 2020 commencement ceremony college officials hoped to hold in person during Homecoming. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference announced some fall sports, including football, will be moved to the spring because of the pandemic.

Students are encouraged to read the Fortify Franklin plan and look for more guidance via email and social media in the coming weeks.

Update: Friday, Aug. 7 at 11 a.m.

Residence Halls and Dining Protocol

Andrew Jones, vice president for student development and dean of students, shared additional details Friday about what students can expect in residence halls and when dining on campus while following the "Fortify Franklin" safety plan.

Guests who are not Franklin College students will not be permitted in residence halls, Jones said in an email, and masks must be worn in all places except private rooms and shower stalls. Students are expected to social distance in shared spaces.

Masks will also be required in the dining hall. Many food stations will look the same as before, with full-service from Parkhurst employees. But other, new stations will contain pre-packaged food, including a new "Griz to Go" area that will replace the deli.

To be in the dining area, an individual must be eating. Otherwise, they could be asked to leave, Jones said. Plexiglass will be placed on all tables to serve as dividers between students and the number of chairs will be limited at each table, with large tables allowing four seats.

Assigned meal times are also a possibility if needed.

"Should the need arise, the college will schedule students' meal times to reduce crowd size and maximize social distancing in the cafeteria," Jones said. "Students' class schedules and athletic schedules will be considered in assigning meal times."

A town hall for students to ask questions concerning the Fortify Franklin plan will be held 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17 via Zoom.


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