UPDATE: planning for reopening

Southern Oregon University , Public Updates

  • Sent 05/15/2020 09:32 PDT via
  • web

This message was sent to SOU employees on May 12


Dear SOU community,

We continue to hear each day that our country may be several months from fully resuming "normal life" as we knew it before COVID-19 arrived in March. But I have some optimistic news to share, sprinkled with caution and caveats: SOU is actively planning for a phased and limited return to activities over the coming weeks and months. We are developing various scenarios for how our reopening may play out through summer and fall terms.

Much still depends on the status of the pandemic, statewide and in southern Oregon. We will continue to align with guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and Jackson County Public Health, and work closely with local health care providers as restrictions ease in our region.

SOU has collaborated with Oregon's six other public universities to develop a shared framework for resuming activities, based on three key principles:
1: Student-centered. SOU is committed to providing the greatest possible level of choice and flexibility to support student access, progression and success.
2: Shared criteria, flexibility in approach. SOU will maintain flexibility in determining how and when students return, but will protect public health by adhering to criteria jointly established by all Oregon higher education institutions and health authorities.
3: Local coordination and collaboration. SOU's capacity to resume onsite operations will be based on local circumstances and regional readiness as determined by county health authorities and university leadership.

Our phased reopening plan will align with prerequisites and "gating" criteria from Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority. We will see a partial and limited resumption of activities during Phase 1, a gradual increase in on-campus activity during Phase 2 and a more general easing of restrictions during Phase 3, based on reliable treatment and/or prevention protocols.

Local health authorities and hospitals must certify these benchmarks for our region before SOU can begin resuming local, onsite activities:
- Declining prevalence of COVID-19
- Minimum testing thresholds met
- Expanded contact tracing system
- Availability of adequate isolation facilities
- Finalization of statewide sector guidelines
- Sufficient health care capacity
- Sufficient local capacity of personal protective equipment

Gov. Brown has indicated that restrictions on large gatherings will continue into the fall. I remain committed to fully recognizing the accomplishments of our 2020 graduates, but it appears unlikely we will be able to stage a full commencement ceremony in September. We are discussing various alternatives, including limited observances this summer and further postponement of our traditional celebration. All 2020 graduates will also be invited to participate in our 2021 Commencement. I will provide updates as information becomes available.

Some of you may have heard that I formed a Reopening Committee to create SOU’s plan and lead our return to normal activities. The committee – chaired by Janet Fratella, vice president of University Advancement, and Neil Woolf, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs – has broad representation from across campus.

Its members will develop detailed guidance for the following functional areas:
- Public health, led by Anna D'Amato
- Instruction/research/K12, led by Sherry Ettlich and Joan McBee
- Workforce and travel, led by Alana Lardizabel and Matt Stillman
- Student services/activities/residence, led by Taylor Burke and Staci Buckwald
- Events/camps/athletics, led by Matt Sayre and David Humphrey

The gradual resumption of on-site teaching and activities will require much work, collaboration and patience. I am grateful to the many individuals who are participating in these working groups. Our plan will be transparent and grounded in the goal of keeping our community safe. I will share updates as this work develops.

Please continue to visit the COVID-19 webpage (sou.edu/campus/notifications) regularly to keep updated on all the related activities and announcements.


Linda Schott
President, Southern Oregon University

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