10
January
2022
|
16:04 PM
America/Chicago

Message from President Loren J. Blanchard: COVID-19 Update and Approach to Spring 2022

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds everyone in good health and preparing for the start of Spring 2022. While this is an exciting time for you, it also presents concerns as COVID-19 cases in our community are on the rise.

Please know that the University of Houston-Downtown continues to work diligently to support your safety and success. Consequently, the first few weeks of this semester (Tuesday, January 18, through Sunday, February 6) will be adjusted to accommodate the rise in Omicron cases. The information below reflects the changes to how classes will be conducted.

We will continue to monitor the pandemic’s effects on our community and may make additional changes to the semester or classes should the need arise. We will communicate with you as quickly as possible should UHD need to once again pivot in the face of COVID-19.

Spring Classes

  • The University will conduct a soft opening for classes for Spring 2022 from Tuesday, January 18, through Sunday, February 6, to reduce campus density. Classes are expected to resume the regular Spring schedule on Monday, February 7, 2022.
  • A soft opening means face-to-face classes that are scheduled to meet two days a week can meet in person once a week during this three-week period and the other day virtually. Therefore, if you have a class with a meeting day, time and location, how you connect with your class and do your classwork may change during January 18, until February 6. Your instructors are reviewing their plans for this period and will email you via Gatormail and/or Blackboard if adjustments are made.
  • If you are taking fully online courses (with meeting times or without meeting times; location will show “TBD” for both), your classes will not change, and you should be prepared to start as planned next week.
  • Check your Gatormail for daily updates from your instructors for any new plans. All instructors should contact you through Gatormail by Thursday, January 13, at 5 p.m. to explain the plan for their classes. If you have not heard from them by Thursday at 5 p.m., please send your instructor(s) an email. Faculty are invested in working with you. Some instructors may also offer additional information in Blackboard — please check regularly, though you may not see anything until this upcoming Sunday afternoon.

Please note that each instructor of your face-to-face classes may offer a different plan based on specific class needs and size. I expect that students will attend their in-class meetings required by instructors. Also, please know that your instructor may encourage you to have your video camera on during online class meetings to better engage you and the class in support of your success.

If you are uncomfortable attending in person classes, I strongly encourage you to review your class schedule and seek options in online courses. If an online option is not your instructional modality of choice or not available, please work with your academic advisor to seek alternative class options available at UHD that align with your degree plan. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Registrar’s Office.

Technology Needs

If you lack reliable technology to participate in your classes, such as a computer, webcam or internet, you can apply for assistance by completing the Student Technology Needs Application. Also, campus computer labs and study spaces will be open and available to you during this three-week soft start period.

COVID Diagnosis/Exposure Concerns

If you have been diagnosed with COVID and are unable to participate in your classes, please contact the Office of Disability Services as soon as possible to determine what short-term accommodations might be available to you. It is important that you contact the staff in the Office of Disability Services when a diagnosis or exposure happens as they cannot offer retroactive accommodations at a later date. Also, students should report COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis as directed on our website

On-Campus Operations

Student-facing offices, such as Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Affairs and Advising, will continue to be open both in person and virtually. Links and instructions for making virtual appointments are available on each department’s webpage. Our staff members are here to support you in person and virtually to ensure a smooth start and completion of this Spring semester.

Continue to Practice Safety at Home and On Campus

It goes without saying that everyone must do their part in keeping our campus and community safe. Conduct daily self-health checks. If you are exhibiting symptoms related to COVID-19, do not come to campus, and consult with your physician. Remember to report COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis as directed on the UHD website, notify your instructors if you are unable to participate in classes, and contact the Office of Disability Services for temporary academic accommodations.

COVID-19 Testing

UHD continues to host a Curative testing site on Girard Street next to the Jesse H. Jones Student Life Center. Testing is available seven days a week and appointments can be made online.

Vaccinations

If you have not received your vaccination and/or booster, now is the time. As a reminder, UHD offers a monthly opportunity to do so on campus with the next clinic scheduled for Thursday, January 20, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the UHD Welcome Center. Also, the Harris County Public Health site has details on vaccination sites and locations. You can stay informed of UHD’s COVID-19 updates here.

Face Coverings

As addressed last semester, UHD continues to offer free masks at dispensers across campus. Make use of these pre-packaged, disposable masks if you are without a face covering while on campus. Presently, there is ongoing discussion among health officials on which types of masks are effective. The CDC has recommendations on masks and face coverings, and we will keep the community informed on any new data regarding this matter. As a reminder, masks are strongly encouraged while on campus and particularly indoors.

Guidelines for Quarantine or Isolation

Be advised that the CDC has updated guidelines on when one should quarantine or isolate when exposed to COVID-19. These recommendations are changing daily, and the Office of Emergency Management continues to monitor all updates and share new information on its COVID-19 website.

In Conclusion

I recognize this plan arrives shortly before the start of the semester, but I encourage you to watch for communication from your instructors via Gatormail and/or Blackboard. These changes were made with your well-being in mind, and I am confident that this will not impact the quality instruction you so richly deserve.

Please know that we will continue to monitor the pandemic’s effects on our community and may make additional changes to the semester or classes should the need arise.

I look forward to welcoming you fully back to campus very soon.

Sincerely,

Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown