Coronavirus (COVID 19) Employee Update – March 17, 2020

Current Decisions

As the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolves, we continue to live into what is becoming our new normal. Your patience, understanding, thoughtful questions, and feedback continue to be incredibly helpful and supportive as we work to determine the best course for St. Kate’s. I greatly appreciate the notes that some of you have sent to me. Thank you.

The three large fears we are fighting cannot be seen, but they can be felt. Deeply and painfully.

  • We cannot see the virus. We only know when we feel it ourselves or see someone dealing with it. 
  • We cannot see the recession we are now entering, but we can feel the pain and stories of people who want to work, and are told they cannot. Or the small businesses who are told to close their doors.
  • We cannot see the depth of the anxiety of students who worry that they will not be able to complete their semester work, or perhaps even complete their degree in May as they had expected.

All of us are already affected by this, and we should plan to be more deeply affected in the days and weeks ahead. None of the decisions to be made are easy, and we have more difficult ones ahead of us. We are doing our best to consider all of the scenarios and implications while meeting the greatest needs of students, faculty, and staff. This includes health and wellbeing, as well as all the financial implications that come with adjusting all of our operations. 

Our mission is to provide an education to our students. In keeping with this purpose, the Incident Management Team has identified three goals to guide our work as we navigate this situation: 

  1. We maintain the health and safety of all members of our community. It is our top priority to ensure our students, faculty, and staff have a safe environment in which to learn and work. 
  2. Our students are able to complete their academic work to the extent possible. We will take whatever steps possible to support our students in completing their academic requirements to achieve their goals. 
  3. The University remains open and will maintain the necessary operations to support students in completing their academic requirements, and ensure we remain operationally strong and flexible for the future. 

Guided by these goals, updated recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and the executive orders announced over the past few days by Governor Walz, we are taking the following actions: 

Working Remotely 

The University is remaining open. Employees who have the ability, equipment, and technology to work remotely should plan to do so beginning March 18 with guidance from their supervisor. If you are not able to work remotely, and your office allows for proper social distancing, you should report to work on campus. Some departments will be maintaining limited on-campus office hours. Supervisors should communicate with their departments regarding specific changes to office hours, if applicable. More information to follow regarding on-campus hours.

Because the University will remain open, there are several employees whose responsibilities cannot be performed remotely because they are deemed necessary to maintain University operations. 

The current plan is for employees to work remotely March 18 – March 29. We will provide an update in the March 25 community message if we will extend remote working beyond this date, which is very likely. It is possible that this situation could extend through this summer. No one knows what is to come, so let us have a plan for the long term. 

Guidelines for working remotely

  • All remote work arrangements must be approved by a supervisor, including designated work hours. Note: Work arrangements will vary by departments. Supervisors and managers will need to determine what minimum level of personnel may need to be available on campus to ensure operations continue. 
  • Supervisors should establish work hours for their staff who are working remotely, which may include the need to be flexible to accommodate specific employee needs (e.g. childcare). Remote staff are expected to be online and available during these determined work hours, including responding to calls and emails, and participating in virtual meetings just as if they were on campus.
  • Faculty are requested to plan for designated “office hours” where they would be available to meet with students virtually. 
  • Supervisors and department chairs need to create a master list of contact information for staff working remotely so that team members may be in contact with one other. 
  • Professional staff must continue to meet department goals, productivity levels, and work responsibilities. 
  • Supervisors are asked to be in touch with their teams as soon as possible to communicate plans and establish work schedules, work duties while remote, and guidelines. Please have these plans in place by Friday, March 20, and email them to hr@stkate.edu  

If employees are not able to perform work duties remotely due to childcare needs or illness, they should take sick leave or vacation during these times. 

If you have questions, please contact your supervisor or manager.

Academics and Classes

Academic leadership is assessing all of the courses offered this semester to determine student needs and the requirements to be able to complete their courses and/or graduate. Due to the diversity of the academic offerings, Academic Affairs is determining the schedule and timing of moving courses online. 

Didactic and lecture courses (including hybrid courses) will move fully online as of Monday, March 30. This includes all lab sections in Humanities, Arts, and Sciences. Individual decisions are being made with the chairs and program directors on courses that include lab and clinical activities, and decisions will be broadly communicated. No clinical experiences, simulations, or applied design experiences that need to be completed on campus due to equipment in nursing, health sciences, or business will begin before April 15. We will provide more information as it becomes available. A separate memo to faculty will be forthcoming. 

If you need support in moving your program online, please plan to attend one of the training sessions scheduled for this week, which will be available virtually. 

Residence Halls and Campus Housing

While many of our students have been able to return home or go to another safe place during spring break, there are a small number of students for whom St. Kate’s is legitimately their only  home. We are working with these students to make provisions for them to remain on campus during the spring semester. 

For students who have an alternative place to go, for the good of everyone’s health, we will ask that they go there for the remainder of the spring term. Residence Life will coordinate move out days to allow students to come to campus in small groups to collect personal items if needed. 

We will have a refund policy defined and communicated in our March 25 update, if not sooner. 

Student Workers

We are implementing a temporary policy to allow student workers to work remotely during the spring semester to ease the financial burden on students and support critical areas of University operations. Students may be allowed to work remotely under the following requirements:

  • Their supervisor and Human Resources approves their working remotely, establishes set work hours, and submit the Remote Working Form.  
  • Their supervisor outlines clear responsibilities and expectations, including how time will be tracked and work productivity is assessed. 
  • Their supervisor maintains regular communication and check-ins with them. 

Supervisors should reach out to their student workers directly to begin these conversations. 

Note: Not all student worker positions can be done remotely. We understand this may pose a financial challenge to these students. We are working with all students who have contacted us regarding financial hardship this semester, and are doing what we can to support them. 

“Shelter in Place”

In the event the Twin Cities comes under a “shelter in place” order, we will follow the directions of the Governor and MDH. For example, in California where six counties are under this directive, higher education is considered an essential business. We would continue to conduct business within the parameters of the issued guidelines for essential business. We are closely working to understand the ramifications of this type of order. We hope we never reach this point.

Other Updates

  • The Early Childhood Center will be closed for child care beginning tomorrow, March 18, through March 27. Supervisors have been in contact with ECC staff regarding work expectations during this time.
  • Under the new orders from the Governor and MDH, the Butler Center will remain closed until further notice. 

We will have a detailed update for faculty, staff, and students regarding the remainder of the spring semester on March 25, as stated in our previous community update. 

We know this is an incredibly challenging time, and one that calls on us to dig deep into our faith and values. We need to be kind and supportive of one another as we navigate this unknown territory and what is to come.