A COVID-19 Report Card

Now that our semester is officially complete and grades are in, we can look back with some relief on our in-person portion of the semester. Nothing was normal, but things did go as planned, starting with the precautions we took—universal mask wearing, social distancing in the classroom, disinfecting seats and tables, and regular COVID testing.

From August 13th through November 20th we administered 25,198 COVID tests and had 28 positives. That’s 1/10 of 1%, which I think is amazing. While the entire campus deserves credit, our students deserve congratulations for doing all they could to help us reach this milestone. Throughout the semester, I continued to hear, from first year students to seniors, that they were truly thankful to be on campus. Even student athletes, who saw their fall contests cancelled, appreciated their six weeks of training, conditioning, and practice.

I attended a couple of faculty workshops on tips and techniques for classroom enhancement on Zoom. Faculty helped fellow faculty to better deliver the curriculum. The admissions staff pivoted to interactive virtual events for prospective students. Our counseling and tutoring programs offered video options. Our dining service Sodexo implemented grab and go choices, and the list goes on.

We redefined “Home for the Holidays” by ending our in-person semester just before Thanksgiving. Students and faculty completed the term remotely, without having to return to campus and risking any spread of the virus.

Now we can look ahead to spring semester classes, which are scheduled to begin February 1st, almost three weeks later than usual. We chose this starting date based on concern about COVID in the winter months.

Hopefully, the current troubling trends nationwide and in our region will reverse and vaccines will begin to be administered widely by then. Regardless, we will have the same protocols and testing regimen in place, leaving nothing to chance.

Our campus has proven that when times are tough, Bison are tougher. We’re looking forward to a happy new year of eventually returning to education, athletic competition, and social life as usual.

An Extraordinary Thanksgiving

It was just me and my husband Dave on Thanksgiving Day this year. We were initially planning an outdoor afternoon of fun and feast at my son’s house, but the weather forecast for cold and downpours squashed that idea. We were thankful for Zoom, because that’s how we saw our two kids, their spouses, and four grandkids.

We typically spend the holiday together in person. Three years ago, my daughter-in-law asked if she could take over the hosting and primary cooking responsibilities. Gotta love it! I can’t wait to get back to that newer tradition.

The arrival of Thanksgiving coincided with the end of in person classes at Nichols, but not without a culinary celebration—our annual “moonlight breakfast” on Sunday, November 15th. There was a socially-distanced seating option and a take-out option offered due to COVID-19 restrictions in Massachusetts. Many faculty and staff were there (including myself), and students seemed in high spirits even though it was far from our normal routine.

Given the prediction that COVID-19 would spike again once cooler temperatures arrived (which did happen), the decision was made during the summer that it would be safest to send students home for Thanksgiving break and finish the semester remotely via Zoom.
The efforts of our students, staff, and faculty, COVID-19 protocols and testing schedules, and removing any breaks that we would normally have during the fall semester made it possible to achieve our goal of being on campus and offering in person classes until November 24.

Meanwhile, I’m thankful that there is a light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, with vaccines on the horizon.

I do hope students, staff and faculty took a moment to truly appreciate all we have to be thankful for this year. And I hope they remain safe and healthy.