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Calendar and COVID-19 Updates by President Valerie Smith

Dear Faculty and Staff Members,

Here we are in mid-November, with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away. As I mentioned when we announced that Election Day would be considered a College holiday, I recognize that our modified operations are taking a physical and emotional toll on each of us. I’m glad we are able to give our students the entire week of Thanksgiving off this year. We are also committed to building in additional time off for students in the spring, and we will share more on that front before the start of the spring semester. I hope that these breaks for our students help slow the feverish pace at which you’ve been working as well and perhaps afford you the opportunity to take some additional time off.

Most of our residential students will depart from campus next week, and we are planning for a mostly new group of students to return to campus at the start of the spring semester. I want to take this opportunity to remind you of this year’s altered academic calendar and update you on a few other matters.

Academic Calendar

  • Nov. 20 — Last day of on-campus experiences; most residential students begin a phased departure from campus
  • Nov. 23–27 — Thanksgiving break
  • Dec. 4 — Last day of classes for the fall semester
  • Dec. 8–15 — Final exams (conducted remotely)
  • Dec. 16–Jan. 3 — Student Winter Break I
  • Jan. 4–28 — January Term (conducted remotely)
  • Jan. 29–Feb. 14 — Student Winter Break II 
  • Feb. 15 — Start of the spring semester

Testing Protocols

I am extremely grateful for your patience and diligence in adhering to our COVID-19 testing protocols. The success we’ve experienced so far in limiting the spread of COVID-19 within our campus community is a testament to your efforts and your commitment to each other’s health and safety. 

We have learned a lot since first implementing our current testing protocols in August. Based on our experience and your input, coupled with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in consultation with Dr. Peter Axelrod (the infectious disease expert with whom we’ve partnered to help inform our decision making related to COVID-19), we are adjusting our testing protocols effective Monday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 7, while we have fewer students on campus.

These changes are specific to individuals whose work requires them to come to campus; those who are able to work remotely must continue to do so

Beginning Monday, Nov. 23, faculty and staff members whose work requires them to come to campus and who are likely to interact with other people for 15 minutes or more during their time on campus will be required to continue performing weekly testing. If your work requires you to come to campus but you have no expectation of interacting with others, you will not need to perform weekly testing during the period of Nov. 23 through Feb. 7. We understand that unplanned, chance encounters may occur. In keeping with the CDC’s guidelines, employees must limit such interactions to less than 15 minutes, and also continue to follow proper safety protocols such as masking and maintaining physical distance.  

We will continue to monitor the current surge in cases, and we will consult with public health experts as we develop testing protocols for the spring. We will communicate those plans well in advance of the start of the semester.     

Change in Testing Location

Given the significantly reduced campus population during this period, we are also changing test-taking procedures. Effective Monday, Nov. 23, volunteers will no longer staff the Scheuer Room in Kohlberg Hall. Instead, we will make test kits available for pickup and drop-off at the campus Post Office; you can view the Post Office’s normal operating hours here. Employees must bring their OneCard to receive a kit. We will keep the Scheuer Room open so that employees can use the space to self-administer their tests. For more information on testing protocols, visit our Faculty & Staff Testing, Contact Tracing, and Monitoring Process page or contact our COVID-19 Employee Test Team.

Campus Visitation Policy

When we closed our facilities and grounds to visitors in August — which we did in the interest of the health and safety of our residential students and our faculty and staff members who are working on campus — we pledged to continue evaluating that decision and reopen the campus as soon as practical. Though our campus population will be significantly reduced once most of our students leave next week, we will continue to house students between then and the start of spring semester in February. That, in combination with the surge in cases we’re seeing across the region and projections of even higher positivity rates, has led us to make the difficult decision to keep the campus closed to visitors. I expect that our neighbors in the surrounding community in particular will find this news disappointing, but I hope they can appreciate the safety concerns behind this decision. We will continue to revisit this situation on an ongoing basis and will reopen the grounds as soon as it is responsible and practical to do so. Faculty, staff, and students should continue to wear their Swarthmore ID card on a lanyard as a visual indicator of who is part of our on-campus community.

Upcoming Holidays and Winter Break

With Thanksgiving and the winter break drawing near, many of you may be making plans to spend time with loved ones. I want to remind you that the commonwealth is recommending that anyone visiting these states quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Pennsylvania. The list of states is regularly updated. If your work requires you to come to campus, we strongly urge you to follow these quarantine recommendations, and that you factor that time into your planning. This 14-day quarantine period is not covered by the College’s COVID-19 Pay Continuity Policy, so please consult with your supervisor if you need to use vacation time to meet Pennsylvania’s quarantine recommendation following any travel.

I do hope the upcoming winter break provides a respite from the rigors of the year and time for rest and rejuvenation. To that end, I am extending the winter break by three days so that we once again have a full two weeks off. This means that our winter break will now run Monday, Dec. 21, through Sunday, Jan. 3. 

I understand and appreciate that some of our colleagues across campus must work during portions of the winter break due to the responsibilities of their positions. Please consult with your supervisor if you have questions. If you are a benefits-eligible staff member and have questions regarding eligibility for holiday pay, please see the employee handbook for further explanation or contact Human Resources.

I cannot overstate how grateful I am to all of you for the many ways you’ve helped the College navigate this semester. I am incredibly proud of the success we’ve experienced so far, and I am optimistic about a return to some sense of normalcy in the not-too-distant future. Thank you for all of your efforts and for your commitment to one another and to our students. 


Val Smith