Dear Night Hawks,
The following is the strategy for opening Thomas University for 2021-22 academic year in an effort to adhere to recommendations aimed at slowing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The framework for the plan was developed in Connecticut and promoted by the National Governors Association. Since the start of the pandemic, TU has consistently stated that we will follow the guidance of the CDC and other health care authorities. That is not changing. Health Care experts have warned of another wave of infections that will accompany the regular flu season. Since there is no way to predict the path of the pandemic, this plan outlines reopening campus but with significant adjustments to both on-ground operations and academic instruction.
This strategy for reopening is in four parts:
- Re-population of Campus
- Monitoring Health Conditions to Detect Infection
- Plan for Containment to Prevent the Spread of Infection
- Plan for Shutdown if Necessary
+Re-Population of Campus (Faculty, Staff, Students, Trustees and Guests)
On August 16, Thomas University welcomed students, faculty, staff and guests) back for the 2021 Fall Term with a full array of on-campus courses and activities.
Returning to campus means a steadfast commitment from each of us to safeguard our own health and that of those around us. As such, all members of the TU community are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The CDC currently recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a face mask when attending class and when present in public indoor settings.
Individuals who choose to remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 are expected to continue wearing face coverings and practice social distancing on campus and in all TU facilities. Lack of a vaccination is not grounds for requesting alternative educational arrangements or accommodations. Also, please note that some subgroups of our community (such as student athletes, student health professionals, student teachers, etc.) may be subject to vaccinations and/or reporting at the direction of an affiliated organization.
Faculty and staff are on-campus. Over the prior year, many administrative offices have implemented user-friendly technology to work with students. Until further notice, you may continue to interact with the following offices in the manner indicated below:
229-226-1621 x 1077
229-226-1621 x 1080
229-226-1621 x 1037
229-226-1621 x 1077
In keeping with the requirements of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, institutions of higher education are required to “implement evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines.” Consequently, the university will take what it perceives as necessary steps consistent with such guidelines. Furthermore, it is likely that these guidelines will change as the year progresses based on guidance from the CDC. Please refer to the website for updates. https://www.thomasu.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/.
+Monitoring Health Conditions to Detect Infection
While TU cannot prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we are taking steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections. Since most employees will continue working online, it is expected that they will refrain from coming to campus if they experience any symptoms of illness or if they have been exposed to COVID-19. Employees experiencing any health adversity should follow normal institutional protocols for sick-leave.
In addition to dispersing the campus population, TU has contracted with a telemedicine provider for services that include an online/mobile triage questionnaire that can help to determine if a student needs to self-quarantine. Archbold Hospital is a nearby COVID-19 testing center and the telemedicine doctors can refer students there for testing if necessary.
+Plan for Containment to Prevent Spread of Disease
Measures to prevent the spread of the disease include minimizing the risk of exposure by dispersing the campus population and regular monitoring by health care professionals. The front line for containment measure to prevent the spread of disease is in the cleaning regimen, which is codified in the NMRC COVID-19 Exposure Mitigation Protocols. National employees will focus on enhanced sanitizing and disinfecting of all CDC recognized touch points such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, etc. and exposure points, e.g. workspace surfaces, break areas, equipment, etc.
Hand sanitizer will be supplied and available at every entrance to every building on campus. The university will also observe CDC case-notification protocols in the event that a positive test for the virus occurs on campus.
+Plan for Shutdown if Necessary
In the event that the university is compelled to close campus, notice will come from the Vice President of Student Life with direction and guidelines as to how students are to vacate the dormitories. As both instruction and administrative support are online, however, those services will continue uninterrupted in order to ensure that students continue making adequate progress toward their degrees.
If students are asked to leave campus, all student financial aid will remain in place and unused rent for housing will be returned. TU offers courses on-line and on-ground and does not differentiate tuition on the basis of delivery mode. Consequently, no adjustments in tuition will be made.
+HEERF I, II, III
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates funds to support individuals, businesses and organizations nationwide affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The act includes several sources of funds for colleges and universities, including the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). A portion of the HEERF (no less than 50 percent) must go directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants (HEERF-student share). Students cannot apply for assistance directly from the U.S. Department of Education. Rather, institutions have the responsibility of determining how the grants will be distributed to students, how the amount of each student grant is calculated, and the development of any instructions or directions that are provided to students about the grant.
To that end the university has executed and returned to the Department of Education a Funding Certification and Agreement [for] Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students. This Certification affirms Thomas University’s commitment to use no less than 50% of the funds received under Section 18004(a) (1) of the CARES Act for Emergency Financial Aid Grants. The total amount of funds received pursuant to this Certification and Agreement [for] Emergency Financial Aid Grants is $187,765. All of these funds have been distributed as of the date of this report.
Those students eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 for purposes of this calculation was 484. This total excluded international students and students enrolled exclusively in an online program pursuant to U.S. Department of Education guidelines.
Thomas University used an application process for the students in this population to affirm to the university that they were financially adversely affected by the COVID-19 disruptions. The university accepted applications from May 11, 2020 through May 22, 2020 to finalize the eligible population. This date was extended later to May 27, 2020 at noon due primarily to the Memorial Day holiday. Consequently, the Student Financial Services Director distributed the HEERF-student share funds equally to the student population that met these requirements. There were 152 students who received $1,235.30 each through this grant process. Awards were disbursed directly to the student based on the student’s preferences, i.e. check or direct deposit. The award was not applied to any outstanding account balance. The following paragraph was included in the invitation to apply for the grant funds:
“The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet. The CARES Act specifies that students who have completed a FAFSA and who were enrolled for Spring 2020 are eligible. Students who are not eligible include: international students, transient students, dual enrolled students, and students that were enrolled 100% online. If you are eligible for the CARES, we ask that you complete the questionnaire found here. The window to complete the application is from May 11, 2020, through May 22, 2020. At the conclusion of the window, the grant will be disbursed no later than May 31, 2020. To expedite the refund process, we ask that you log in to your Hawklink account to ensure your Direct Deposit Agreement is up to date.”
The Department of Education requires that this communication pertaining to the award proceeds be updated every 45 days after the initial report. There has been no change in the information to be reported from the previous report dated August 10, 2020. This report is the final report.