With only days remaining in RISD’s all-virtual Wintersession term, students and faculty members are preparing to return to campus for spring semester classes offered in three modalities: virtual, in-person and hybrid. “Drawing on the experiences of the past year, departments have worked hard to adapt all 750 courses offered this spring to comply with safety protocols and deliver the best possible learning experience to our students,” says Dean of Faculty Patricia Barbeito.
Many of the same safety protocols instituted last fall will be in effect, along with additional measures implemented in response to a nationwide uptick in positive cases. Fewer nonessential staff members will be allowed on campus so that students and faculty can be tested for COVID more frequently, and all members of the community are required to complete a brief online training session focused on required safety protocols.
“As we look to the opening of the spring semester, the leadership team has continued to be in close contact with health experts and state and local officials about the evolving risks associated with COVID-19,” says President Rosanne Somerson. “Given our shared success in safely opening campus last fall, we have every expectation that we will be as prepared as possible for a safe return to campus, once again rising to these unprecedented challenges.”
All RISD community members living or working on campus during the spring will be tested prior to the start of the semester. RISD will then conduct weekly testing for the majority of students, faculty and staff who are on campus and biweekly testing for those who interact with others less frequently (increasing our overall fall testing volume by 65%). Additionally, 13 staff members—an increase since last fall—have participated in a contact tracing training program developed by Johns Hopkins University so that someone is on call 24/7 to respond to any positive cases detected.
A total of 1,775 students are expected on campus in the spring (almost exactly the same number as in the fall), with 450 students planning to study virtually from home. Students will arrive by February 15 and quarantine in their residence halls and apartments for two full weeks. They will have opportunities to connect through online programming during the first week, and then classes will begin virtually on February 22 and transition to in-person or hybrid on March 1.
RISD Dining will offer a wide range of gourmet meals to-go throughout the spring semester, and all studios and workshops will once again be organized around principles of de-densification, allowing a minimum distance of six feet to be maintained between people at all times. Outdoor classrooms will be established, weather permitting, on March 15, and new air filters will be installed throughout campus. Masks are mandatory across campus, and in-person extracurricular activities will not be permitted.
“While we are telling our community members that they must keep physical distance, we are also emphasizing the importance of social connection and making sure students and staff have the emotional support they need,” says Executive Director of Integrated Health and Wellness Bob Samuels. “COVID-19 is still very much a part of our daily lives, and COVID fatigue is real. We know what to do to keep safe, and we must encourage and support each other to survive and even thrive in the coming months.”
Photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH. For complete and up-to-date information about how RISD is responding to the pandemic, visit covid.risd.edu.