College Update: Planning for Fall 2021

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

In early February, I shared with you our plan to move into Phase 3 of our Roadmap for Reopening operations, beginning Monday, May 10, 2021, with expanded options for students’ learning and engagement on campus, while we continue to prioritize the health and safety of you and our students, as well as the continuity of our students’ learning.

Last month, at the start of our spring break, Valencia College received game-changing news — college and university employees were made eligible to receive the vaccine at our West Campus state/FEMA COVID site. Since that time, state eligibility has opened to include anyone 18 or older. Having vaccines available for our employees is a critical step in our reopening, and we hope you’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated. Vaccines continue to be available to growing numbers of citizens, and experts predict that by the end of summer, anyone who wants to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to do so.

In light of this, and in consultation with Orlando Health, we are announcing a move to a cautious Phase 4 opening, effective Sunday, August 1, 2021. This is the next step of our transition back to a new Valencia. I invite you to watch this video as Executive Vice President and Provost Kathleen Plinske and I share details about planning for Phase 4.

I recognize that you might have many questions and concerns about this Phase 4 announcement. Please know that there are many questions to which we do not yet have answers. But by making this decision now, we will have the time to carefully develop plans for a return to a more full opening. Here’s what I can tell you so far.

What does this mean for classes?

At this time, we are planning our fall schedule to meet current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which means we will be planning for reduced onsite and mixed-mode class capacity and, as a result, we will still offer a robust schedule of online classes. We also anticipate enrollment growth and the need to offer additional sections, due to reduced onsite class capacities. We are currently exploring ways to meet the need for additional faculty.

Given our current best thinking, we anticipate that mask wearing will still be required indoors. We await new guidance from the CDC and will adjust our plans accordingly, though we are committed to keeping our fall onsite classes smaller to aid in the transition back for both students and faculty.

What does this mean for services?

All Valencia College campuses will be open and operating in Phase 4. We will create plans — under current CDC guidelines but will adjust given any changes to the guidance — for how we will offer services in a hybrid way for fall so that we can continue realizing the tremendous opportunities we’ve seen through connecting with students virtually AND provide onsite opportunities for those students who desire a face-to-face experience.

What does this mean for me?

Some of our colleagues have been on campus since the beginning of the pandemic, and many more have returned through Phase 2 and will be returning as part of Phase 3 this summer. During Phase 4, our operations will not be “opt-in” as they will be for Phase 3, as we will need to be open and ready to serve our students through a combination of on-campus and online classes and services.

All full-time faculty will be notified of their schedule by Monday, May 17, 2021, and all staff members will have received expectations for fall by Thursday, July 1, 2021.

We understand that this transition may be challenging for many reasons as we know some employees are still less comfortable with interactions because of the virus. For those of you who have a medical concern and are unable to be vaccinated, we will help you through our Americans With Disabilities Act process to determine if reasonable accommodations are needed.

We also recognize that the public schools in our area start on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. We commit to working with you if you need flexibility between August 1 and August 10 to meet your family’s needs.

In addition, we know that many of you have realized tremendous benefits from working remotely over the past year and don’t want to return to life exactly the way it was. The Senior Team is having on-going conversations to craft design principles that we’ll use to determine how we might integrate flexible work arrangements for positions where it makes sense AND we can ensure that our students’ needs are met.

We have a lot of redesign work ahead of us, and it won’t all be completed by fall, but rest assured that plans will be developed in Valencia’s collaborative nature. We’ll keep taking steps as we emerge from the pandemic to reshape Valencia in a way that serves our mission and our students in a contemporary way and look forward to partnering with you in that journey.

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