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Safely Repopulating Campus

While the Commonwealth’s guidelines allow for us to currently allows us to return up to 25% of the workforce, they also stress that businesses (including higher education) should continue to encourage employees to work remotely if it suits the operational needs of the particular business. Although essential personnel and a limited number of students have been at Salem State during the pandemic, many of you may be wondering how we will be safely repopulating our campus.

At Salem State, we are taking a conservative and deliberate approach to our repopulation of campus. We have made a determination that those departments and employees who can continue to fulfill their duties via remote work will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Therefore, to the greatest extent possible, supervisors should plan for their employees to continue to work remotely.

As we work towards a broader repopulation of campus for the fall, which includes some in-seat classes and occupied residence halls, we will need to assess which departments and employees will return to on-campus work on a need-basis only in order to support the academic mission and the needs of our students.

Faculty members that are already scheduled to teach in-person this fall will be contacted through a separate process.

The COVID-19 Task Force has established a safe repopulating process that would allow a small percentage of our employees to return to campus starting on July 1. The process is outlined below:

  1. Vice presidents and deans are to coordinate efforts within their areas, assess their operations and submit a formal request to bring employees back to campus.
    1. Vice presidents and deans are encouraged to submit requests between June 22 and August 10. There is no need to submit a request now if employees will not be returning until the fall or if an area will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
    2. Each request will be carefully scrutinized and will consider the operational needs, health and safety of the community, compliance with state guidelines, and will be reviewed in consideration of overall building and campus population density, among other factors.
    3. As we begin to work through this process, it is with the understanding that no employees aside from previously identified essential staff will return to on campus work prior to July 1, 2020.
    4. Again, only approved essential personal should be on campus at this time.
    5. If areas are continuing a remote work plan, please communicate how your department will be accessible to the campus community moving forward by emailing so that we can properly share this information.
  2. If the submitted request is conditionally approved by the COVID-19 Task Force team leaders Gene Labonte, Assistant Vice President for Public Safety and Risk Management and Dr. Elisa Castillo, Assistant Dean of Students for Wellness, then:
  3. A detailed COVID-19 health and safety work plan must be submitted.
    1. Human resources will coordinate with the vice president or dean to guide the development of the work plan.
  4. The area’s health and safety work plan will be reviewed by the COVID team leaders Chief Labonte and Assistant Dean Castillo.
    1. Once approved, the vice president or dean will be notified that the requested employees can return to work on campus and what, if any, special requirements or restrictions must be imposed. 
    2. Just to be clear, once a plan is approved this does not mean that every person in that department will be allowed to return to campus.
  5. If the work plan is fully approved, additional guidance for supervisors and staff will be provided by human resources. This help includes direction on how to request needed supplies, signage, and office changes such as furniture placement and layouts to comply with the health and safety protocols.
  6. Any employee returning to on-campus work will be required to complete a campus repopulation orientation training. 
  7. There is a waiting period of up to 10 business days after full approval so your space can be prepared for repopulation.
  8. In addition to the completion of the campus repopulation orientation training, there will be requisite safety measures mandated; including mask wearing in open and common areas, physical distancing practices, modified hours and workdays, and other precautions.

I appreciate everyone’s adherence to the safely repopulating campus process and will continue to notify the community as changes or adjustments are needed or allowed. From day number one, I have said that safety is my top priority. I believe this strategy will allow some of us to return to campus for our students, following public health guidance and the state reopening plan, while others remain supporting them remotely.

John Keenan


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