Jan. 24 Return to In-Person Learning Q&A
See below for a short FAQ on some of the most commonly-asked questions surrounding the return to in-person classes on Jan. 24.
How do we know a different decision around class modality won’t be made later?
Western is issuing this message now because we feel confident in the ability of the local healthcare infrastructure to withstand Omicron, of the low percentage of hospitalized patients who are vaccinated, and of the campus’ resilience due to its high vaccination rates and masking rules. Most of the models we have seen indicate that regionally we should be past the crest of Omicron by the time classes resume on Monday as well. And while these models are just predictions and we can never speak in certainties, all expectations are for classes to resume on Monday and to continue in that modality for the rest of the quarter.
What’s different now from a week and a half ago when Western moved to remote learning for two more weeks?
We have a much clearer picture about local hospitalization rates for vaccinated populations. We have also been able to communicate with local healthcare officials about the county’s ability to continue to provide care at our hospital despite the surge in unvaccinated Omicron patients. Lastly, we have been able to streamline our own isolation and quarantining procedures, as well as our positive case intake and notification processes.
Could offices close or classes need to be adjusted?
The expectation is that there may be offices that may need to temporarily stop offering services in person or close for the days in which staffing is an issue due to exposure or illness. Similarly, classes may also need to be flexible in that regard because of the same reason.
What about vulnerable students who can’t safely go to class?
While the deadline for requesting remote participation for winter quarter has passed, students who need disability-related accommodations can apply for them through the Disability Access Center.
What about vulnerable employees who can’t safely work on campus?
Supervisors need to be aware of the potential health risks and needs for accommodation for their employees, and do whatever they can to mitigate those risks and concerns. Remote work is strongly encouraged, where applicable, and more information about this can be found on HR’s website. High risk employees can additionally request an accommodation.
I’m a faculty member; can I move my class online for the rest of the quarter?
The modality of classes was put in place at the start of the quarter, and the deadline for a permanent change to that modality has passed. Per the linked MOU, however, faculty may make emergent requests for a shift of modality.
Western announced we were back to in-person learning, but my professor announced that same day he/she/they were keeping us online for two more weeks?
Faculty have a clause in their agreement for winter quarter that allows for them to go to two (additional) weeks of remote learning. We do not anticipate that a large number of faculty will utilize that two weeks at this time, as it would be best used in case of their own potential illness or emergency, or if class attendance is significantly impacted by illness. Essentially, the remainder of this academic quarter will continue to require that we all maintain a state of readiness to respond to how COVID will continue to affect operations.
Are attendance policies in classes being suspended?
No, they are not. Faculty have the freedom to assign grades as they deem appropriate, and class attendance is a very important component of the teaching/learning experience and environment. Given the unique situation of this quarter, the university has encouraged a more nuanced application of attendance policies than is perhaps required in more "normal" academic quarters. Students with questions about specific attendance policies in classes should consult their instructors.