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Planning for Spring (12/4/20)

Overview

  • Spring semester will begin online.
  • We are ready for the phased return of students once approved.
  • We are pressing on all fronts for county approval.
  • Spring break will now be a full week, March 8-14.
  • We will use that week for return to campus of some students if the county permits it.

Dear Pomona College Community:

I’m writing to you at a time of immense national and global challenge as the pandemic accelerates into winter. It also is a time of renewed hope, as we’ve seen stunningly positive results for vaccines and have learned effective ways to fight spread of the virus in higher education settings.

This week, even as the pandemic reached another troubling milestone, CDC Director Robert Redfield cited the growing success of colleges and universities in containing COVID-19. “In the spring, we had significant outbreaks on different college campuses,” he said. “But what happened over the summer and the fall is many of the colleges and universities really stepped up to developing comprehensive mitigation steps.” He went on to point to routine testing, contact tracing and other steps that have led to campuses having lower case rates than surrounding communities.

Since spring, Pomona has followed that path of preparation, diligently planning for the phased return of students to campus.

We are ready.

Our immediate challenge is that Los Angeles County has imposed additional restrictions on colleges that reach beyond the state’s already-comprehensive standards. I have been meeting with members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and their staffs to advocate for our students and higher education in general in the face of learning loss and growing challenges for the most vulnerable students across our county. I also have met repeatedly with public health officials to press for a waiver or pilot program to allow small colleges like Pomona to return a portion of their student populations this spring.

County public health officials are now planning a pilot/waiver program for some campuses willing to maintain a “bubble” environment (with up to 500 students), and Pomona will apply immediately once applications open. However, public health officials have made it clear this pilot/waiver concept will only go forward if the county’s adjusted case count drops to a lower threshold.

In the larger picture over time, our county’s approach has become increasingly at odds with those of neighboring counties, as well as states and municipalities across the nation that have allowed colleges to carefully re-open campuses. Earlier on in the pandemic, Pomona, like many other institutions, evacuated the campus, as we needed to have testing and other key measures in place. Now we are ready, and a growing number of examples show colleges can re-open their campuses to students successfully with the right safety measures.

While the current restrictions mean spring semester will need to begin online, they also mean we are planning for spring break of a full week, March 8 to 14, which we will use to return a limited number of students to campus if that becomes possible. (No student would be required to return to campus for spring.)

In the meantime, we will press on all fronts for the county to approve a science-based approach to reopening and allow Pomona to begin a phased, responsible return. We will continue to refine our remote education and build community in every way possible in our temporary online setting. As we all follow urgent public health measures, we can look eagerly to fall, when we expect the campus to re-open to the entire student body. I cannot wait to see you all.

 

With best wishes,

Gabi