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October 30, 2020 - In-person Learning for Spring 2021

Dear members of the Whitman Community,

It’s hard to believe that we are just more than three weeks away from the last day of classes for this very unusual semester. I have been clear over the past few months that it is our priority to make sure we can be back together for in-person hybrid learning for the Spring 2021 semester and that we would do everything we could to make that happen.

Last week, we received additional guidance for higher education from Governor Jay Inslee that has increased our confidence in being able to return this spring. We also are now confident that we can obtain the necessary testing supplies to regularly test the campus community upon their return and throughout the semester. For those reasons, we are pleased to announce that we plan to bring all students back to campus this spring for a mix of in-person, hybrid and remote classes. However, any student who is unable to—or who feels unsafe returning to campus because of the coronavirus pandemic—can choose to take classes remotely. 

Quarantine expectations. Classes will begin on Monday, Jan. 25. Students living both on campus and off campus will be expected to return by Monday, Jan. 18 to begin quarantine. All classes will start remotely during the second week of quarantine (Jan. 25-29). Students will be expected to quarantine in their residences for the full two-week period. Classes that will meet in person will begin to do so the week of Feb. 1. 

Move in. Most students living on campus will move into their residences the weekend of Jan. 16-17. Students will receive a specific move-in date and time assignment based on their residence hall. Students will be allowed only one family member or other person to help them move in. Some athletes will be moving in early to accommodate their practice schedule.

Testing. All students, faculty and staff will be tested for coronavirus upon returning for the spring semester and can expect to be tested twice a week initially. Results will be shared with the community via a dashboard on the Whitman website. We will then adjust our testing frequency based on progression of the virus throughout the semester.  

Living on campus. We expect that first-year students and sophomores will live on campus this spring unless they indicate otherwise. Students who will be living at home or who signed a year-long lease in the fall in Walla Walla and are unable to break it, will need to complete a petition to be released from the on-campus housing requirement. Students should contact the Residence Life and Housing Office to do so by Nov. 13 or they will be charged room and board. Residence Life and Housing will make room assignments for first-year students based on the information provided previously. 

Living off campus. Students living off campus must be back in their off-campus houses by Jan. 18 and are expected to quarantine for two weeks—a week before classes start and during the first week of classes. When students living off campus return to Walla Walla in mid-January, they will be expected to begin regular coronavirus testing.

Registration. You have already received an email from the registrar with the specifics about registration, which begins next week. Before you register, you can find out the anticipated format of each class—in-person, remote, or hybrid. More than half of the classes offered for the spring semester have some in-person component.

Tuition. The cost of tuition will be the same discounted rate as it was for the fall semester for all students whether they return to campus or not. Students living on campus will pay room and board and financial aid will be recalculated accordingly.

Food. Bon Appetit will provide food service on campus for the Spring semester. Students living on campus will be required to be on a meal plan. We will have more information about what socially distanced dining might look like in the coming weeks.

Pods. Students who have elected to participate in the Living and Learning pods will still participate in their pod classes and will be placed in housing based on their pod. Those students will be able to interact with other students on campus following social distancing guidelines and can register to take either in-person, remote or hybrid classes in addition to their pod classes.

Spring break. Because of the coronavirus dangers associated with travel, we will not have a traditional spring break. Instead, to discourage travel, spring break will take the form of several smaller blocks of days off throughout the semester.

Next steps. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to bringing everyone back to campus and we will continue to communicate as the planning progresses. Our ability to successfully return in person in the spring is largely dependent on each member of our community and our

diligence when it comes to social distancing, wearing masks, daily temperature and symptom checking, and using the contact tracing app as outlined in the community pledge that we have all signed. Students who do not follow the guidelines agreed to in the community pledge will face disciplinary action up to and including being sent home for the remainder of the semester.

In the coming weeks, I will schedule town hall meetings for students and their families, as well as for employees, so I can directly answer any questions you might have about the spring.

In the meantime, I encourage you to take a look at the FAQ we put together to answer some of your questions. If you have an urgent question not answered here or in the FAQ, contact information is listed in the FAQ.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the resilience I have witnessed from students, faculty and staff since we left campus in March, and I am counting the days until we can all be back together again. Thank you for all your dedication to this community. 

Kathy Murray

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