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Voluntary Return of Classes to Campus

Dear Faculty Member:

From the beginning, we have consistently stated that we will be guided by science and the latest health guidelines in deciding how we can continue our classes and work safely. Poor turn around times in test results and community spread in Shelby County compelled us to limit on-ground instruction at the beginning of this semester as the first stage in our phased return. Fortunately, tests are now readily available for our students, faculty and staff, testing result times have markedly improved and the rate of infection in Shelby County has noticeably decreased, with current trends sustained for the past three weeks. Most importantly, our experience with the students, faculty and staff on our campus since March and again since the beginning of this semester have shown that our efforts to maintain a safe environment for our work and learning are demonstrating some early signs of success.

We will continue to monitor each of those trends carefully, but the positive trajectory at the moment makes it reasonable to explore the possibility of voluntarily returning more of our classes to hybrid or fully face-to-face meetings in the next phase of re-opening. Our current target date would be September 14. If you would like to return some or all your class meetings to our campus and can do so within the current safety guidelines regarding class size, please let your chair or dean know.

We will be asking the colleges to send us a list of classes that would like to return in this next phase of re-opening by the end of this week with the information about the rooms, meeting times and class sizes. This will be a phased and gradual return. We are not yet sure that we will be able to accommodate all requests in this next phase, but we will do our best to accommodate as many as possible. We will then monitor the success of this next phase and the conditions in the community and then move to the next phase in a couple of weeks after that if things continue to go well.

Please be assured that the return of classes will be voluntary this semester. We will continue to monitor key safety indicators and make any necessary adjustments to enable as much face-to-face teaching as we can while still maintaining the safety of our students, faculty and staff as our highest priority.

Regards,

Dr. Tom Nenon
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost