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Time-Sensitive Update on Spring Semester Plans (1/6/22)

Briefly:

  • Students may return to residence halls as scheduled and we will maintain our academic calendar with classes starting Jan. 18.
  • Students need to test negative for COVID-19 at most 48 hours prior to travel to campus if testing is available to them.   
  • All students will be required to be tested as instructed once they arrive on campus.
  • The first two weeks of classes—Jan. 18 to 28—will be conducted online as case rates are very high nationwide, and we expect a significant number of students will test positive and require isolation.
  • Every eligible member of our community must get a COVID-19 vaccine booster by January 18.

Dear Pomona College Community,

We are writing with time-sensitive information on the start of the spring semester amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant. Our continued goals are to promote safety for our community and carry forward the on-campus education we all deeply value.

To those ends, students are encouraged to arrive on campus with proof of a negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken at most 48 hours before arrival. All students will be required to be tested as instructed once they arrive on campus. Details on providing pre-travel negative test results and campus testing clinic hours will be shared in the days ahead, and required testing will continue through the spring semester.

Residence halls will reopen as scheduled and we will maintain our academic calendar with classes starting January 18. We recognize the vital importance of on-campus education, and we believe in our students and our academic mission.

The return of students to campus in fall was successful as our community worked together for safety, and we have learned much since this pandemic began two years ago. We now have highly effective vaccines – and boosters – to help protect our community along with steps such as routine testing and masks. (As a reminder, we are requiring every eligible member of our community to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster by January 18.)

However, the rapid spread of COVID-19’s Omicron variant poses significant new challenges due to its high level of contagiousness and the resulting scale of outbreaks. In the coming weeks, we expect more cases on campus than ever before, and this will temporarily strain our systems and community in new ways. We will need to adapt and cooperate for public health as the wave of cases crests.

Current infection rates are so high nationwide that we must expect a significant number of students will test positive before traveling to campus and have to change their arrangements, or they will test positive upon arrival on campus and need to be in isolation. It’s also possible a significant number of staff and faculty will come down with COVID-19 during this time as well.

In light of these realities, and to allow time for an initial round of on-campus COVID-19 testing of all students before in-person classes meet, the first two weeks of classes—Jan. 18 to 28—will be conducted online. This also will help limit virus transmission between consortium campuses, and 5C events are on hold at this time for the same reason.

We recognize the need for continued community and connection, and we will emphasize smaller-scale outdoor activities during this time. More dining space will be provided outside, and we will continue to work to expand our existing array of outdoor classrooms.

For interior spaces, we already have taken steps such as upgrading all air filters and replacing them more frequently. At the same time, we have revised system controls to maximize outside air to facilitate multiple air exchanges throughout the day.

We also are working to supplement supplies of upgraded masks as state and county standards shift in that area and cloth masks are eliminated. In addition, regular COVID-19 testing will be required not only for all students but also for staff and faculty working on campus, with more details coming in the days ahead.

With Omicron cases expected to surge through January, we appreciate your flexibility as we work to ensure a productive semester in shifting conditions. We are confident our community will continue to innovate and find solutions in this fast-changing environment. We will maintain our multi-layered approach, with masks, testing and vaccination, to protect our community.

We thank you for your continued help as we press ahead with our vital academic mission.

 

Sincerely,

G. Gabrielle Starr, president
Seth Allen, vice president for strategy & dean of admissions and financial aid
Christina Ciambriello, chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Trustees
Robert Gaines, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college
Robert Goldberg, vice president, COO and treasurer
Avis Hinkson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students
Mark Kendall, chief communications officer
José Rodriguez, vice president and chief information officer
Maria Watson, vice president for advancement