Rider rolls out plan for fall reopening

By Stephen Neukam and Austin Boland-Ferguson

After submitting the reopening plan to New Jersey, Rider announced its outline for the fall 2020 semester on June 24, detailing major changes and contingencies for the campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The 11-page plan, titled “Resolved and Ready,” lays out the university’s guidelines for a return to the Lawrenceville campus for students, staff and faculty. Included in the guide is a new timeline for the academic calendar, required preventative practices, intended infrastructure for testing, contact tracing and symptom reporting and contingencies for confirmed cases of the virus at the school.

Rider’s information resources on COVID-19 and reopening plan

The semester will begin on August 31, a week early, with options of on-ground, remote and hybrid instruction for classes. In-person classes will follow social distancing guidelines as advised by local and state officials, and students will be required to wear masks in class. 

In-person instruction will end on Nov. 24, allowing for one week of remote instruction beginning on Nov. 30, and a remote final exam period from Dec. 7-10.

The fall schedule of classes will soon list whether faculty will be teaching in-person, online or in a hybrid format, and students who have already registered for fall courses will be permitted to change their schedules once they see the planned format for each class.

The university’s plan also announced that J-term courses leading to the spring 2021 semester will be remote, “allowing students to stay home for an extended period during the winter months.” Spring semester plans have yet to be determined.

A major question mark for students — housing — remains relatively unchanged. Under health guidelines, residential halls are considered family units, allowing students to have roommates for the fall semester, barring any changes by the state of New Jersey. Earlier this summer, the university suspended the residency requirement for freshman and sophomores and has suspended late cancellation fees on housing deposits to allow for students uncomfortable with returning to campus to remain home for the semester. The university also indicated that it hopes that the increase in vacancies will help “de-densify” residence halls and maximize social distancing. Bathrooms and other facilities will operate under social distancing guidelines, according to the plan.

Students, staff and faculty will be required to wear masks throughout the campus. For in-person classes, students will wear masks and instructors will stand behind a plexiglass shield at a podium or wear a shield for more flexibility. Classrooms will be altered to promote social distancing, according to the plan.

Dining facilities will also follow social distancing guidelines, with students removing masks only to eat. Self-serve food will be eliminated from the dining halls.

The university remained vague on the particularities of its testing and contact tracing plan, saying it is working with state and local health officials and providers to come up with the infrastructure. However, the plan does mention the possibility of daily symptom reporting and temperature checks. 

The university is preparing for the eventuality of someone testing positive for the virus on campus. If a student has the virus, they will be asked to return home for the required isolation period. If the student requires on-campus housing, the university is prepared to have isolation housing for up to 22 students between the Lawrenceville and Princeton campuses. If a student is believed to have been exposed to the virus, they may be required to quarantine at home or at Rider for 14 days, with the capacity for 72 students to reside in quarantined housing on campus.

The administration acknowledged the fluidity of the situation, saying that the plan will only go into effect if New Jersey is in Phase Three of its reopening plan. The state is currently in Phase Two.

The plan was put together with input from students, staff and faculty. Senior musical theater major and Student Body President Dylan Erdelyi said that members of Student Government Association were a part of the working groups that came up with recommendations for the reopening plan. To help students better understand the guidelines, the organization is planning on hosting a series of town halls this summer.

“We anticipate a lot more questions, especially about the details of how classes will function and what life will be like on campus,” said Erdelyi. “As we get closer to the beginning of the semester, students will be able to ask some of those more specific questions and have their concerns addressed.”

Additional reporting by Dylan Manfre.

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