Dear Staff and Faculty,
I hope you have had a successful start to winter quarter in these unprecedented times.
Your ability to provide our students with strong remote support and rich educational experiences over these tough months continues to be inspirational. I am writing now to share plans with you about the remainder of this academic year and Evergreen’s goal to offer more in-person instruction in Fall 2021.
State health officials and daily statistics confirm that January has been the worst period of the COVID pandemic to date. The good news is that as of today, Washington is reporting a decrease of 44 percent in new cases per day from the average two weeks earlier. After a slow start, the state has recently ramped up the administration of vaccinations. At the federal level, on January 21 President Biden directed the departments of education and health and human services to provide colleges with evidence-based guidance on safely reopening for in-person learning.
Nevertheless, this positive momentum and high-level guidance is not likely to be enough to allow us to safely return to significant levels of in-person instruction and operations anytime soon. Therefore, we plan to continue with largely remote teaching, learning, and services, for the rest of the academic year. We hope to introduce more in-person services and support as health conditions and guidelines allow.
Employees who currently work remotely can expect to continue to do so at least through June 30, 2021, so long as it doesn’t impede critical operations. (This date aligns with current guidance provided by Gov. Inslee to state employees and with plans at the University of Washington). This doesn’t necessarily mean we will all be back on July 1. Our return will be guided by public health conditions over the next several months. And we will examine our decisions through an equity lens.
Faculty should consult with the curriculum deans about modes of instruction and scheduling, and staff should consult with their supervisors if they have questions about their individual working arrangements. Employees can also request accommodations through Human Resource Services. We ask that everyone please continue providing flexibility and grace to all members of our Evergreen community, particularly those who have critical caregiving responsibilities.
Meanwhile, if vaccines are distributed effectively, we all continue to wear masks, avoid gatherings and do our part to stay safe, Evergreen should be able to offer more in-person instruction and support for students in Fall 2021. I consider this vital. We know remote learning disadvantages many of our students, particularly those from underrepresented and underserved populations. And we know prospective students are mostly searching for an in-person campus experience for Fall 2021. All of our partner four-year public colleges in Washington have declared their hopes to provide in-person instruction by then.
We know there are many important questions to resolve if we are to reach our goal. I am grateful to all in our community who have been so diligent in following health and safety rules over the past year as we pivoted to remote operations. We must continue along that path. Although we will remain remote for the time being, our job now is to plan, work hard and prepare for better times ahead.
As we have more specifics to share, we will do so. I look forward to keeping you updated on this effort.
Please stay safe,