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Readying Your Campus for Your Return

An update from Rollins President Grant Cornwell.

July 9, 2020 

As we look toward opening our 136th academic year at Rollins, our goal is to take every measure to be able to live and learn together on campus, managing the risks of COVID-19 to the best of our collective ability. We all—students, faculty, and staff—have chosen Rollins because we value the rich learning community and the depth and quality of education it affords. I want to assure you that we are fully committed to maintaining the kinds of learning experiences we all hold dear at Rollins. Students will still participate in lively class discussions, small group activities, and team-based learning. They will still meet with their professors individually and have strong support from peer tutors, librarians, career and life planning staff, and each other. The intent of this letter is to share the health and safety protocols and careful plans laid to enable us to pursue our mission together in the fall.

Before moving into the details of our plans, I wish to share these reflections. You are pursuing your education at Rollins in the midst of a global pandemic and the most important social movement since the Civil Rights era. While you will face challenges unique to this moment, there has never been a more critical time than now for immersing yourself in the learning that only a liberal education can provide. What is more, while the personal choices of citizens of a community always matter, the individual and daily choices you make while on campus this fall will literally and immediately affect the well-being of yourself and others and the viability of our campus community. Our mission is to provide an education for global citizenship and responsible leadership. This coming semester, you will be called upon to manifest this mission with daily constancy and integrity. If everyone—at all times—practices with strict adherence the protocols we are putting in place, the whole campus community can remain well and we will all be able to fulfill our most ardent wish: to live and learn together through the course of the semester. Please note that we will be working with the Student Government Association to draft amendments to the Rollins Code of Community Standards to address directly COVID-19 behavior expectations.

I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to welcome you to campus and to begin the fall semester. Some of what we will be called upon to do will, at times, be awkward, uncomfortable, and frustrating. Our collective efforts will be rewarded.

Wellness Screening and Testing

Upon arrival to campus for the fall semester, both residential and commuter students will undergo a wellness screening for symptoms and temperature. This screening will also extend to students’ move-in helpers. Each student may have up to two individuals assist them with move-in, after they pass the wellness screening.

We have equipped our Wellness Center with two rapid results testing devices and an ample supply of COVID-19 tests. Anyone with one or more of the symptoms of COVID-19 or a temperature, including individuals assisting with move-in, will be issued a rapid results test and will be isolated until the test results are available (less than 30 minutes).

At the time of move-in, all students will receive a Wellness Kit that includes two masks, hand sanitizer, and a reusable thermometer, plus information on preventing the spread of disease and how to report illness. We ask that you self-monitor on a daily basis for temperature and symptoms of COVID-19 throughout the fall semester and report any symptoms to the Wellness Center. The Wellness Center will be able to test symptomatic and asymptomatic students. Some individuals will need additional testing based on a medical assessment. Using findings from self-reported health data, we’ll be able to test possible hot spots on campus. COVID-19 testing at the Rollins Wellness Center follows guidance from the Center for Disease Control and the State of Florida Health Department.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing other than the Wellness Center, we ask that you update a daily screening tool we will be using (detailed below) with your positive results. Reporting positive cases through the screening application will allow contact tracing to begin promptly and will help keep our community safe. If a student tests positive at any time (rapid or PCR tests), they will be isolated and contact tracing will begin.

In addition to our highly trained medical experts in our Wellness Center, we have contracted with AdventHealth to support and consult with all of our medical efforts. AdventHealth will help us plan for move-in, support on-site medical care, provide testing, and evaluate almost every decision we make to prepare the campus to be as safe as possible.

To further reduce the transmission risk to our campus community, we will require a daily screening through a wellness mobile app. This app will allow for daily self-screening, which will help direct our community members to seek healthcare immediately and decrease the transmission of COVID-19 to the campus community. We are currently assessing a number of providers; selection of the app will be completed prior to the start of the academic year and details about how this will work in a classroom setting will be shared at that time.

To further track the health of our community, we are exploring two different monitoring protocols. In partnership with a bio-tech company, we are studying testing wastewater effluent from residence halls on a weekly basis using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis with CDC novel coronavirus primers. This would provide up to seven days’ advance notice of an increase in infection in a residence hall. Identifying residence halls with a significant peak in COVID-19 levels in the effluent will signal us to test everyone in the residence hall and respond accordingly. We are also considering testing pooled samples of individual nasal samples, followed by individual testing in any group that tests positive. Since these bio-technologies are being tested and perfected daily, we will communicate with you when we have settled on our approach.

Quarantine and Tracing

We have developed plans to dedicate space for quarantine of exposed, asymptomatic residential students and isolation and care of our residential students who become ill and test positive for COVID-19.

Fortuitously, we are nearing completion on the first phase of the 503-bed Lakeside Neighborhood, which offers single rooms and private baths. We will house students in 300 of the rooms at the beginning of the semester in Seymour and McKean Halls and reserve the additional 200 in Bornstein Hall—which will not be complete at the beginning of the semester but should be available shortly thereafter—for quarantine and isolation protocols.

In addition, the following spaces will be reserved for quarantine/isolation: Strong Hall 220 (19 beds), Strong Hall 221 (19 beds), three units in Lakeside (12 beds), and four apartments in Sutton (16 beds), for a total of 66 quarantine/isolation beds available for immediate occupancy. When Lakeside is complete, we will have 266 beds available. Where feasible and safe, students who are quarantined or isolated should plan to return home for the period. In cases where this is not the best option, students will be moved into the quarantine and isolation spaces available. We will make every effort to provide necessary care, including meal delivery, wellness monitoring, and provisions for continuing studies virtually while in quarantine/isolation. Please know in advance that we will not be able to accommodate rebates for room and board for those who must quarantine or be isolated and elect to return home for the period.

Thorough contact tracing is vital in containing the spread of the virus across campus. Rollins will contract with Rapid-Trace to expand our capacity for contact tracing. This partnership will allow us to provide additional medical expertise and support to manage the pandemic.

We will also hire an additional registered nurse to serve as added support for COVID-19 testing. This individual will also help administer flu shots, which we are asking every member of our campus community to receive this fall. These shots will be provided through our Wellness Center.

Residential Life and Move-In

We will conduct staggered move-in to campus between September 8-12 to optimize physical distancing. This plan allows us to move approximately 200 students into their residence halls each day. Students are being notified of their assigned check-in times. Students engaged as Peer Mentors and Residential Assistants will move in earlier, also on a staggered schedule.

As mentioned above, each student is allowed two helpers.

For students moving into our new Lakeside Neighborhood, we will have an unloading tent on Tars Plaza on Holt Avenue in the center of campus. We will be putting the finishing touches on the third building in the complex and want to keep students and families safe from construction activities. Moving assistance will be provided.

Dining and Campus Life

Rollins Dining has been hard at work developing a range of options available this fall including prepared, grab-and-go, and ready-to-cook meals. In addition, dining funds may be used to order groceries from the C-Store for students living in campus residential units with kitchens, and grocery delivery service will be available for these orders.

We plan to offer physically distanced dining at the Bush Café and Skillman Dining Hall and have expanded our capacity for outdoor dining. We will also have a touchless payment system. In addition, there will be no catering on campus this fall for Rollins departments, programs, organizations, or meetings. Please look for additional information from Rollins Dining in the coming month.

Student organizations may meet virtually or in spaces that enable social distancing.

Personal Protective Measures

We have established a number of protective measures on campus designed to keep our entire community safe.

First and foremost, all members of the campus community—faculty, staff, and students—are required to wear masks on campus, except in private offices when alone and within a student’s individual campus housing room. The use of masks applies to both indoor and outdoor environments, with the exception of physically distanced groundskeepers. 

Wearing face masks or coverings is one of the most important actions we can all take to suppress the spread of the virus because face masks are useful both in preventing illness in healthy individuals and in preventing asymptomatic transmission. Wearing a mask is not only about self-protection; it is also about protecting others from infections. When a community wears face masks consistently, the number of COVID-19 cases is reduced. Each member of our campus community has a part to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and we ask that everyone comply with our mask policy in their everyday interactions with others.

We do not recommend the use of medical-grade N95 masks. Masks with relief valves may not be worn on campus as they do not protect others. (Exceptions that are aligned with job duties may be made.)

Face shields may also be requested by those unable to wear a mask for documented health reasons. To request a mask accommodation, contact Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In laboratory environments such as the Bush Science Center and the Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center, and other places where it may not always be possible to maintain six feet of physical distancing, face shields will be worn over masks.

While our dedicated Facilities Services maintenance team is practicing enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures throughout campus, especially as it relates to deep cleaning of commonly used spaces, we must all do our part to help keep the campus safe. We are asking that, in addition to scheduled cleaning, everyone regularly disinfect their own spaces. Because cleaning and disinfection are shared responsibilities among our campus community, we will provide cleaning supplies to assist in disinfecting personal spaces.

We launched our campus wide Wellness Campaign “Keeping Tars Safe” in June to help acclimate members of our campus community working on campus this summer to new procedures. Signage, including distancing markers and directional signs, continues to be installed on campus. We will deploy hand-sanitizer dispensers across campus in high-traffic areas and are installing plexiglass shields and barriers in high-traffic areas and public spaces where physical distancing is not possible. To learn more about our Wellness initiative and what you can expect on campus, please watch this video.

Additional plans include:

  • Faculty may use face shields, in addition to masks, in their offices for office hours and are encouraged to offer virtual office hours and advising.
  • Olin Library has developed a physical distancing and capacity plan as well as adding outside, no-contact lockers for delivering both IT and library-related materials.
  • High-traffic buildings will have one-way ingress and egress as well as one-way traffic in hallways and stairwells when possible.
  • Some gathering spaces, including the pillow room in Olin Library, will be closed for the semester.
  • The Post Office will use no-contact lockers for package delivery in the Cornell Campus Center.
  • Smoking and vaping are prohibited on campus and College properties for the duration of the pandemic in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Students who plan to attend Rollins in the fall must come with the understanding that despite our very best efforts to ensure the health and safety of our campus, we cannot guarantee an on-campus living and learning community free from all possible risk of exposure to COVID-19. The plan we have outlined here is based upon the acknowledgment that any institution of higher education will likely see diagnosed cases of COVID-19 until a vaccine is readily available, as is the case in the general population. The decision to return to campus this upcoming fall semester represents an acknowledgment and understanding of this risk for each student. Students who have health concerns, who prefer not to travel to campus, or who cannot come to campus due to travel restrictions, will be able to access courses remotely. Further details about this option appear below.

Starting the 2020-2021 Academic Year

The first day of classes for students in the College of Liberal Arts and the Hamilton Holt School is September 14. The last day of finals will be December 18. We will not have a traditional fall break in October and will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and the day after as a break. We ask that our residential students stay on campus as much as possible, and are welcome to do so over the Thanksgiving holiday. We are limiting College travel for faculty, staff, and students to protect our community. While our campus will be open to Rollins faculty, staff, students, and prospective students, we will limit access for the broader community.

Regarding athletics, Sunshine State Conference member presidents and athletics directors are actively considering the evolving guidance from the NCAA. I am currently Conference Chair, and we will provide further information as plans become more definite. We have not yet finalized plans for recreational sports, intramurals, and athletic facilities.

To reduce risk, we will not offer physical education activity (PEA) courses this academic year. Thus, the Health and Wellness Competency (BCMP) for the College of Liberal arts has been suspended for all current students and all sections of both Health and Wellness (PED 101) and PEA are cancelled in the fall and spring. Students who have already taken the course will retain the credits as elective credit toward graduation; students who have not yet completed this course will not have to take it before graduation.

While we believe our protocols and safety precautions provide a cautious approach to support the well-being of our community, we are allowing students the option to attend the fall semester fully virtually (i.e., all of your courses would be through virtual, synchronous learning). In addition, we are waiving the requirement of living in the residence halls for those who wish to live off campus. If you plan to attend classes in person this fall, no action is required.

In recognition of the loss of experience afforded through on-campus learning, students who elect to attend fully virtually will receive a grant of $2,500. Please note: if you are receiving need-based financial aid, federal regulations may prevent a full $2,500 grant and other aid may be affected by moving off campus. The Financial Aid Office will review each request submitted and advise students of any changes to their aid package within three business days via Rollins email.

Should we be forced to move instruction to a virtual format at some point during the semester, we plan to award this grant to all students pro-rated from the date of the shift to virtual learning.

Students in the College of Liberal Arts who wish to waive the residency requirement and/or participate virtually must submit a request. In order to best support you and your success this fall, please complete this form before August 1, if possible, and not later than August 15. Upon completing this form, the COVID-19 Student Support Team will notify the student’s faculty members.

International students outside of the U.S. who, due to various travel restrictions and the suspension of U.S. embassy visa services or well-being concerns, may not be able to return to Rollins in the fall semester should consult with the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (Jenifer Ruby, to request virtual learning and obtain advice on the process for maintaining or regaining their immigration status. The Office of International Student and Scholar Services will notify the student’s faculty members. When possible, such requests should be made as soon as possible and not later than August 15, 2020.

Any student who becomes ill for any reason, is quarantined due to exposure, is awaiting test results, or tests positive for COVID-19 during the fall 2020 semester may attend virtually through these time periods. Students in these situations should immediately provide the COVID-19 Student Support Team ( with medical documentation and refrain from attending class in person. The COVID-19 Student Support Team will notify the student’s faculty members. Our class attendance policy is being modified to encourage students who are ill to not come to class.

Changes in our Classrooms

The classroom environment will be different when you return to campus, and changes will require everyone to be flexible and accommodating. Below are some changes you can expect in your classrooms:

  • All classrooms will have a minimum of six feet between students (on center) and a nine-foot separation for the instructor, including outdoor classrooms.
  • Every student will have assigned seating and must not change seats during class. This is to minimize the need to quarantine and expedite contact tracing.
  • • Only students wearing masks will be allowed to participate in person in classes. While your Wellness Kit will include two masks, please come with an ample supply of comfortable, well-fitting masks.
  • For hearing-impaired and language-learning situations, we are exploring CDC-approved masks with a clear section over the mouth, as they afford more protection than a face shield.
  • Laboratory classes will follow typical protocols for protective gear, with the addition of both face masks and face shields.
  • Music and theater faculty are creating learning and performing environments that reduce risk, following the best guidance available from their professional organizations and health care experts.
  • Olin Library will be open, with socially distanced study spaces and one-way traffic flows. Librarians will fully support student learning with in-person and virtual options.
  • The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is preparing new exhibits to support campus learning, especially around racial justice issues.
  • To minimize density, we will use livestreaming for performances and athletic events.
  • This fall, we will leverage videoconferencing software to engage students both in and out of the classroom. All students will need a videoconference-capable device (e.g., laptop with camera, tablet, smart phone) and some type of headphones or earbuds that include a microphone for classes. This solution will allow both in-person and remote students to actively and equally participate in class with their faculty and—importantly—with each other. If you foresee having a technological barrier for this type of classroom engagement, please email with the subject “Technology Barrier Fall 2020.”

Faculty are preparing for multiple modes of instruction to provide high-quality instruction that will allow us to respond fluidly to the pandemic:

  • Every instructor will be prepared to teach students in person and remotely. (This is why the videoconferencing technology requirement is essential in creating equitable, quality learning for all.) For students participating remotely with a substantial time zone difference, your instructors will work with you on asynchronous options.
  • Some instructors with COVID-19 risk concerns will teach virtually. In that case, the instructor will contact students with details about how the class will be structured.
  • We are working to maximize the number of classrooms that can accommodate the entire class with social distancing. Some classes will be taught on an A/B rotation model to accommodate social distancing: half the students will participate in small groups and virtual learning for one class while the others meet together with the instructor, switching for the next class meeting.
  • Every class will have a low- or no-bandwidth option to cover a week of learning in the case of an emergency such as a hurricane.
  • Every class will have a post-Thanksgiving innovative virtual learning plan, should we deem it best not to resume in-person, on-campus instruction after Thanksgiving.

Dynamic Planning

While we have been developing our plans the past several months, and are in various stages of implementation, we understand the situation with COVID-19 is fluid. We consistently monitor Orange County (FL) recommendations, our Wellness team works in close collaboration with our local Health Department and epidemiologist, and we are ready to alter plans at any time should the situation warrant.

Community Responsibility

This communication covers a great deal of information. Should you seek clarification on any item, or if you have additional questions, I encourage you to attend a virtual town hall on Wednesday, July 22 from 6-7 p.m. ET. I will be joined by Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan Singer, Interim Dean of Students Leon Hayner, and other College administrators who have been working tirelessly these past few months planning for our Fall 2020 opening. To register for this event, please click here. To preserve bandwidth, we ask that family members in the same household log in via one device.

For the remainder of the summer, we encourage you to visit our FAQ page frequently. This page will be updated frequently with new and relevant information.

The challenges we face are neither clear nor simple. I share your concerns, but we have an outstanding and capable team in place envisioning every scenario, and I also know the Rollins community to be one of the most caring and thoughtful educational communities I have experienced. For this year to be as successful as possible, I am appealing to all of us to commit to personal responsibility. By working together and following health and safety guidelines, we can do our part to keep ourselves and each other safe.

We will continue to keep in touch with you this summer as plans evolve, and I encourage you to visit the reopening website frequently as well as following our social media campaigns. We appreciate your continued patience and partnership, and look forward to seeing you on campus this September.

Grant H. Cornwell