F&M campus move-in postponed – classes remote for first two weeks of spring semester

Dear F&M Community,

As we mentioned in our Dec. 23 spring planning update, the COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly, requiring continued nimbleness to protect our community’s wellbeing. 

Here’s what we have learned since the end of fall semester:

  • The Omicron variant of the COVID virus is highly transmissible.

  • Effectiveness of vaccines in protecting against infection is 75% for those who are boostered and 35% for those who have had two mRNA shots. As a result, breakthrough cases (although typically mild) are more likely to occur. 

  • Case numbers in Lancaster and across the U.S. have risen dramatically.

  • COVID tests are in short supply.

The combination of these factors moves the College’s COVID-19 alert level to Very High. Given this change in alert level, the senior leadership team, in consultation with the Pandemic Operations Response Team (PORT) and Keeling & Associates, has made the following decision for the start of the spring semester:

  • F&M will postpone students’ return to campus by two weeks. Move-in for students living in college-owned housing will begin on Saturday, Jan. 29 (instead of  Sunday, Jan. 16).

  • Classes will start as planned on Jan. 18 but will be conducted remotely. There will be no in-person classes Jan. 18 through Friday, January 28. In-person classes will resume on Monday, Jan. 31, public health conditions permitting. In addition, the opportunity for in-person social events will be significantly limited during this time.

  • Students currently living in college-owned housing, based on approval prior to the winter break, may remain on campus. Students not yet approved, or approved but not yet back, should stay at home until housing move-in begins on January 29. 

    • College House Advisors are still expected to return to campus on Jan. 15 as originally scheduled. 

    • Members of winter athletic teams may still return to campus on their approved move-in date.

  • If staying home for this extended two-week period presents a significant hardship (e.g. cost of changing travel plans, limited access to internet, etc.), students may petition to return to campus early. A petition form will be sent out next week. Please be aware that petition approval will be extremely limited.

  • Students living in off-campus housing are also strongly discouraged from returning to their off-campus housing until the College resumes in-person classes.

  • Administrative operations will reopen Jan. 3. While many campus services and offices will continue in-person activities during this period, some areas may operate remotely to help maintain a safer campus. Any temporary changes regarding in-person work will be determined by supervisors based on a division’s capacity for remote work and the needs of the campus community. Employees should bring inquiries or requests to their supervisors.

  • The Student Wellness Center - both physical and mental wellness services - will reopen as scheduled on Jan. 3. Masks continue to be required in all indoor spaces. If you are eligible for a booster shot, please make an appointment to get your booster as soon as possible.

Winter athletic competitions and theater performances may continue as planned, but will be subject to in-person spectator restrictions and additional safety measures. All other in-person campus gatherings and events should be conducted virtually, postponed or canceled during this time.

As has been true since the start of the pandemic, our primary concerns are fulfilling our academic mission and promoting the health and wellbeing of our campus community and neighboring communities in Lancaster. Although starting the semester online is not ideal, we believe it is the best course of action to reduce the risk of virus transmission and the possibility of significant disruption to students’ learning. The two-week delay will allow us to prepare for a safer and smoother return to campus this spring. An increasing number of colleges and universities are making similar announcements of and plans for delayed openings, based on public health data and forecasts. 

We anticipate this announcement will raise many questions. We ask for your patience as we work to fine-tune the details and provide you with the information you need to plan for your return. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates next week and throughout January via email and the Pandemic Operations Information website.

As a reminder, this spring F&M students and employees will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster within 30 days of becoming eligible. If you are eligible for your booster, please make plans to get your booster before your return to campus. 

Thank you for your resilience and flexibility as we prepare for a successful spring in the midst of unpredictable and evolving circumstances.