Academic Continuity Plans in Light of Coronavirus.

By Margaret E. Cooper, Margaret E. Cooper, LLC, mec@megcooperlaw.com

As of today, there has been exposure of people on campus to COVID-19, but no confirmed cases on campus. But college-aged students have better immune systems and may not be as susceptible to the disease.

However, campuses house international communities and have foreign satellite universities. The CDC has suggested to colleges that study abroad and exchange programs should be canceled.

Now the CDC is recommending that colleges and universities should begin referring to their Academic Continuity Plans to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Generally, Academic Continuity Plans outline a college’s response to a Pandemic and lays out steps with regard to moving classes online, canceling travel, foreign students, transmitting warnings and guidelines, and teaching about the disease.

One article that lays these steps out in greater detail is: Kamenetz, Anya.  https://www.npr.org/2020/03/06/812462913/6-ways-universities-are-responding-to-coronavirus. “6 ways Universities are Responding to Coronavirus.”

Another similar article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/08/us/coronavirus-schools-san-francisco-seattle.html

Further, some colleges have posted their Pandemic Response Plans online. The college should be updating you on their response under their Plan to COVI-19, but if they are not you have a right to ask your child’s college Ombudsman for a copy of the college’s Plan and request to receive updates as the college implements their pandemic response.

Some plans allow for colleges to close and the students to be dismissed from campus with class instruction and assignments conducted online. Such closure would be a last resort, but colleges have included provisions like this in their plans.

Sample Pandemic Response from California State University’s Northridge Consolidated Business Continuity Plan:

CSUN Pandemic Response Plan
Academic Units

Introduction

Academic Affairs protocols and activities will be developed and implemented consistent with the existing CSUN Emergency Management Plan Policies and Procedures, the Campus Closure Integrated Communication Protocol, and the business continuity plans articulated elsewhere in the CSUN Pandemic Response Plan.

Existing Campus and Chancellor’s Office policies and procedures will govern decisions regarding students engaged in academic off-campus learning experiences or in international study programs.

Phase 1 – Interpandemic Period

  1. All academic units will establish workflow procedures that clearly indicate chain of command and succession plans in the event the pandemic alert period is entered.
  2. Units will follow current procedures which govern ensuring the continuity of instruction in the event of instructor/student illness and absence.  These include substitute instructors and alternative assignments.
  3. All academic units should post, and place on their respective web pages, policies regarding absences and information on preventing the spread of the virus.
  4. Criteria for the suspension of classes will be developed consistent with the existing campus policies.
  5. Deans and Chairs will consult with faculty to develop contingency plans for the continuity of instruction.
  6. Colleges and Departments will work collaboratively to collect instructional materials that can be easily scanned into PDF, html files, WebCT, or other electronic formats which can be placed on the web portal as needed. ITR can provide access pathways for each class and section by class number.
  7. Identify resource professionals in colleges and departments and begin training on the conversion of instruction materials to PDF, html, or WebCT formats as appropriate.
  8. Many academic units currently use virtual administration practices.  The remaining will develop policies, procedures, and practices to provide for virtual administration of their respective units and programs.

Phase 2 –Pandemic Alert Period

  1. Alternatives to classroom instruction will be initiated.   Colleges will provide, and/or coordinate with departments to provide, support to faculty to scan and convert teaching materials into the appropriate electronic formats.
  2. Consistent with collective bargaining agreements, each academic unit will identify essential personnel who can provide the continuity of critical services.
  3. Academic Affairs, in conjunction with ITR, will provide the means for faculty to place critical teaching and research materials on a campus or remote location server or electronic medium.

Phase 3 – Pandemic Period

  1. All academic units will report faculty and staff absences and potential cases of illness to the University Influenza Manager and to HR.
  2. Academic Affairs will utilize the Campus Closure Integrated Communication Protocol to communicate and implement campus closure decisions.
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