July 2, 2020 – Fall 2020 update

Dear ACU Community,

I hope this message finds you and your family well. As promised, we want to keep you updated on our path forward for Fall 2020. This ever-changing environment continually presents new challenges, so we are leaning in to where we are today while focusing on the future.

At ACU, our top priority has been – and will always be – the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. With that in mind, we have developed a plan that harnesses what we know today and provides flexibility for the fall.

We want to thank our three work teams – Campus Health & Safety, Fall Contingency and Mission & Implementation, led by Kris Sutton and Dr. Laura Carroll – for their diligent work as they explored each and every angle to determine how we can have a successful fall semester.

Their comprehensive recommendations outline new procedures and protocols designed to protect and promote well-being among our community.

Commencement Update
Just as we were about to announce final plans for Commencement, Governor Abbott issued a new executive order Friday. We are now consulting with local officials about our plans to hold commencement ceremonies August 7-8. We want to follow proper protocol for commencement and other upcoming events, so we are seeking guidance. You can expect an announcement about our plans soon.

Faculty and Staff Campus Return
Phase III of the Abilene campus return for faculty and staff has been pushed to July 15. This will allow ample time to prepare for the return of our students and provide a high-quality experience this fall. Unless your supervisor has asked you to be on campus before then, you are not expected to return to campus until July 15. Please see face mask requirements below.

Fall Calendar Update
We will open the fall semester as scheduled August 24. Like many other universities, we have made the decision to cancel fall break and move online after November 24. Students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving. This means there will be one week of online-only instruction, followed by final exams, with the semester concluding as scheduled December 11.

While we certainly recognize the need and desire of some faculty, staff and students to travel this fall, and for our students to return home on weekends, we recommend travel to and from Abilene be limited to essential travel only. This will help keep our community safe and preserve our face-to-face learning environment.

Face Masks and Testing
Effective immediately, face masks will be required in all indoor spaces unless someone is alone in a private office. Specific information about the Student Recreation and Wellness Center (SRWC) and The Bean will be posted onsite. Face masks also will be required outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. Roommates in residence halls are not required to wear face masks in their private living space. We appreciate your adherence to this policy. Not only does it protect our campus community, but it will allow us to remain in face-to-face instruction this fall.

COVID-19 testing will be provided free of charge to all members of our campus community. More details on how to access this testing will be announced prior to August 15.

Student Learning Update
Students will be able to view their class schedules on Banner beginning July 13. More than 78% of our class sections will have face-to-face instruction, with less than 8% of class sections online. Another 14% are through independent study and internships. New class times have been added, but no classes are scheduled on Saturdays or Sundays.

Classroom spaces are being modified to provide six-foot physical distancing between students, and instructors will be distanced 10 feet away from the class. We will provide enhanced sanitization efforts, resources for health screenings, access to personal protective supplies, and workplace and classroom wellness guidance. The addition of these new protocols, along with heightened attention to personal hygiene and self-care, means we will all be doing our part to protect our community.

To ensure all classrooms are disinfected between each session, we have adjusted class schedules to allow 20 minutes in between classes. Additionally, class schedules are being staggered to avoid large gatherings at The Bean or other common areas.

Our fall plan reflects a commitment to preserve the health and well-being of our campus community and fulfill our mission of providing a transformative residential experience for our students. ACU will remain flexible as new information continues to emerge in the coming weeks and months.

Residential and Student Life Update
All residence halls will be open this fall. Upperclassmen will move in between August 15-23. First-year students will move in August 16. Meal plans will begin August 16.

There will be enhanced sanitization procedures, wellness guidance and resources available for health screenings. Attention to proper hygiene and self-care will be critically important as we work to keep our residential community healthy and safe.

ACU’s large, daily Chapel gathering has been suspended, and small group chapels will be held in its place. Other ACU traditions that involve large gatherings and activities, many of which occur outdoors, are still being assessed. An ad hoc committee in Student Life will oversee and approve all student activities this fall. They are working hard to ensure our students have a vibrant experience on campus, while following local and state guidelines.

What’s Next
We know the only thing we can control about this pandemic is our response to it. As you might imagine, it has been challenging to make decisions in this ever-shifting environment, but we are confident our students can thrive this fall with appropriate safety measures in place.

I realize some of this may be frustrating, but I’m incredibly grateful for the support and patience exhibited throughout our community. Knowing God is in control gives us encouragement and peace as we begin a new academic year that promises to be historic.

We know details are important to you as the fall semester nears, and we will continue to provide you with updates. In the meantime, we appreciate your continued patience as we have worked to develop a path forward that keeps our students on track to graduate and allows each of them to experience the difference ACU can make in their lives.

I pray for God’s blessings on you and your family. With his grace and provision, we will emerge from this pandemic stronger and healthier.

In Him,