To the SMCC Community,
SMCC’s campuses have been nearly empty since mid-March during this unprecedented time. Thanks to the flexibility, creativity and positive attitude of faculty, staff and students, we have continued delivering a quality education to students to the best of our abilities while continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our employees and students.
Across our community people are interested in hearing what we have in store for the Fall Semester. After weeks of consultation and collaboration, the time has now come to lay out a general overview of our plan even as we continue working out the final details. Planning has been a challenge, to say the least, as the COVID-19 situation and guidelines and directives from the state and health officials have evolved on an almost daily basis.
This letter doesn’t provide every detail and it won’t answer every question. But it provides an outline of what we are planning, and we will continue to communicate what we can as things firm up.
Our priorities looking forward continue to be:
- Protecting the health and safety of our employees and students
- Delivering on our mission of providing educational excellence
- Providing support services to our students to ensure their success
Our plan for the fall has benefited from the input of faculty, staff, students and our broader community. We have heard from faculty and staff individually and in virtual Town Halls. We have heard from students, both directly and indirectly, from their conversations with staff and faculty. We have heard from business and community partners, and we have consulted with other universities and colleges in Maine, the Maine Community College System, Governor Mills and her office and the Maine CDC and other health agencies.
We are always looking for ways to improve, and I welcome your suggestions. We are continually reevaluating our plans as we make plans for the future.
Summary of Our Plan:
- We will have some students back on campus in the fall, but not all students. The groups on campus will be:
- Students whose programs or courses require hands-on learning or demonstrations on equipment located on campus. These courses will take place with smaller class sizes and safety protocols in place for students and faculty.
- Residence halls will be open, with reduced capacity, only for students who are taking in-person courses on campus or are homeless.
Our Reasoning and Commitment to Educational Excellence
We would all like to be together this fall, to meet face-to-face with students and fellow faculty and staff. However, the driving factor behind our decisions has been and will continue to be the health, safety and well-being of students and employees.
Given what we know about COVID-19, we must proceed with the utmost caution. While face coverings, physical distancing and other practices help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are not in a position to open up our campuses to large numbers of students. Health experts agree that allowing large numbers of people on campus would increase the risks of spreading the disease. With this in mind, we have concluded that it is too risky to allow a densely-populated environment with everyone back on campus.
Online courses have been growing in popularity at SMCC and other colleges and universities nationwide in recent years. Even before COVID-19 forced us to go nearly all-online in the spring, the number of students taking online courses at SMCC has risen by more than a third in the past five years.
Our remote courses will be different than the emergency online classes students had in the spring. Classes will be offered on our new online system, BrightSpace, which is an easier-to-use, more seamless and enhanced platform. We will also be using online tools like Zoom and some virtual simulation software, and we have moved some software programs to the cloud where students can access them from home.
Faculty have been participating in training and building courses using the best practices for online and remote learning. They are committed to providing an excellent educational experience and to student success, no matter the circumstances.
Online and On-Campus
- Instruction not requiring hands-on learning will be offered remotely.
- We will offer synchronous classes that meet live online at scheduled times. We will also offer asynchronous classes that have no scheduled meeting times with a schedule of work to be completed.
- What will a typical week look like for students taking online classes? Instructors may require you to do any of the following on BrightSpace: Participate in live online meetings with your classmates; watch recorded lectures; read course materials; watch videos; participate in discussion boards/chats; take quizzes and exams; submit assignments and homework online; log into BrightSpace regularly; and take part in other strategies to maximize student learning.
- Some courses will be taught primarily online, but will also include some live on-campus instruction (a hybrid component). These include some labs in Biological Sciences and industrial design and marine design classes in Architectural & Engineering Design.
- Hands-on courses from selected programs will be taught on campus in order to meet the required learning standards, but with smaller class sizes for safety. Portions of those classes, such as lectures, may be offered online. Those programs include Culinary Arts, Cardiovascular Technology, Communications & New Media Studies, Construction Technology, EMS/Paramedicine, HVAC/Plumbing, Medical Assisting, Nursing, Precision Machining, Radiography, Respiratory Therapy and Biological Sciences.
- Campuses are open, but access to many buildings will be limited. Most student support services will take place remotely online or by phone, email and/or video conferencing. Some support functions will take place by appointment on campus, but all other meetings will continue to be held remotely.
- Our Fall Semester calendar will remain the same, with classes beginning August 31 and ending on December 19.
- View the credit course schedule for the Fall Semester.
Student Life & Athletics
- Residence hall housing will be limited to students who have to take in-person classes on campus and students who are homeless. All residents will be assigned single rooms at Spring Point Hall in South Portland (with a bathroom shared with one other person) and Orion Hall on the Midcoast Campus in Brunswick (with a private bathroom).
- Resident students coming from outside of Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of moving in. SMCC will be able to assist residence students with obtaining tests in Maine.
- Students will be required to wear masks and maintain a six-foot social distance when in the residence halls and not in their rooms. Guests will not be permitted in students’ rooms, including other resident students. Hallways have been designed for one-way travel. Students will be assigned a designated entrance and exit to use.
- Dining facilities will be available on each campus for residents, commuters who are on campus and employees.
- Oceanview Dining Hall will have take-out options and limited socially-distanced seating.
- Masks must be worn at all times in the dining venues, except when seated to eat.
- All venues have been reconfigured to remove self-service and allow for socially-distanced traffic patterns.
- An app will be available to allow customers to order in advance for take-out and for contactless payment with debit/credit cards, Beacon Bucks and resident meal plans.
Athletics & Recreation
- Athletic competitions will not be held this fall. The Athletics Department is working on a plan to allow for all student-athletes to compete at some point during the Spring Semester.
- The fitness center on each campus will be closed for the fall semester.
Student Life Activities
- Student Life will continue to offer a full slate of virtual activities for student engagement. These include Student Senate and student club meetings, TedTalk presentations, Open Mic sessions, leadership programs and more.
- There will also be some socially-distanced small-group in-person events, drive-in movies, and other outdoor events.
- The bookstore will be open, but it will be limited to five people at a time.
- People will enter through the service entrance from outside the Campus Center, and exit from the main entrance inside the Campus Center.
- Students are encouraged to order books online and have them shipped.
- Face coverings are required indoors.
- Face coverings are required outdoors when physical distancing of more than six feet is not possible.
- The College has invested in upgraded ventilation filters and installed physical barriers and hand sanitizing stations. Students and employees will be expected to use provided cleaning products to wipe down surfaces and equipment after use.
- Occupancy levels will be reduced across the College, and traffic-flow patterns have been modified to support social distancing. Hallways are designed for one-way travel where possible and specific doors are designated as entrances and exits only. Most bathrooms will be limited to one user at a time.
- The Financial Aid Office now uses a service that allows you to send documents securely. Simply take a clear picture of the document on your phone and upload it to the website. To access the website, login to My Maine Guide, select My Money and click on “Upload Financial Aid Documents” in the Things to Know section.
- Any available student employment positions will be posted on August 29 on My Maine Guide (click on the “Student Employment” link in the left hand column).
COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to colleges such as ours, to businesses and to all facets of our lives. With that in mind, it is important to remember that we still live with uncertainty, and that our plans are subject to change depending on the circumstances.
If COVID-19 cases spike, if there are serious new health risks brought on by the virus, or if there are new governmental mandates, we will act accordingly and our plans may change. There is still work to do, and we are embracing a flexible approach as new information arises.
I want to thank the entire SMCC community for your patience and understanding as we have worked through many scenarios on what SMCC will look like this fall. I have been so impressed with how everybody has stepped up to support one another, and tapped into your innovative spirit to deliver a top-notch educational experience for our students.
Thank you for your dedication and commitment to SMCC during this challenging and uncertain time. I hope you and all your loved ones are staying safe and healthy.
My best to you,