on this page:
Planning for 2020-21: General Topics
Planning for 2020-21: Student Housing
Planning for 2020-21: Academic Topics
Summer Guidance
Staying Healthy
Support Resources
Ways to Help

Planning for 2020-21: General Topics

What are Macalester’s plans for Fall 2020?

On June 30, President Rivera shared a Fall Planning Update. Our plan is to begin the fall semester in person, while providing a remote option for those who choose, or need, to learn remotely. The plan includes a list of actions we are taking to support learning while observing best practices for physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and other preventative measures.

How will the module system and updated academic calendar affect my financial aid?

Generally speaking, if you are enrolled full-time, the module system will have no effect on your aid. However, please review the Financial Aid COVID-19 FAQ for more specific questions relating to the 2020-2021 academic year.

If I decide to take a Leave of Absence, what is that process?

The Leave of Absence process and policy for returning students can be found in the Student Handbook. The Leave of Absence form can be found on the website at Forms/Processes. Once you have submitted your form to the Office of Student Affairs, they will obtain the necessary signatures from campus offices on your behalf then process your request. An official notification that your leave has been granted will be sent to your Macalester email address.  If you have questions about the process or completing the form, please email studentaffairs@macalester.edu. If you are a returning student seeking a Leave of Absence for Fall 2020, please submit your request by July 15, 2020. Requests will also be accepted after July 15.

New incoming first-year and transfer students should not request a Leave of Absence.  Instead, they may either request a deferral here or reach out to admissions@macalester.edu to learn more about deferral options.

How are we supporting our international students?

The news of the ICE guidance for F-1 visa students this fall has added to the stress and questions our international students have. Macalester’s International Student Programs (ISP) Office, the college’s senior leadership team, and the college’s legal department are all working to fully understand how this guidance impacts our students, particularly those students who are currently outside the United States.  

We continue to plan to welcome new international students to campus and offer courses that students will take in hybrid format (with in-person and remote courses) while at Macalester. We are joining with other institutions of higher education (in Minnesota and nationally) to press for changes in federal policies that are harmful for our international students. More information is available in President Rivera’s July 11 message to students, published on the President’s website.

How will residence halls and dining spaces be set up for social distancing? Will capacity be reduced?

Plans are in progress to maximize opportunities for social distancing in the college’s residence halls and dining spaces. Move-in will be staggered to best ensure health and safety. Events and social activities in the residence halls will be adjusted to support social distancing. Modifications will be made to support physical distancing in hallways and common spaces. Residential Life shared additional housing information with students and families on July 6.

There will be seating in Cafe Mac, but the number of seats will be reduced. Hours will be expanded so fewer people will be there at a time. A new floor plan has been designed with seating that promotes six-feet distancing. 

What will Orientation look like, and will move-in be staggered?

Move-in will be staggered. The Office of Student Leadership and Engagement team is in the process of planning for orientation and move-in. As more details are available, they will be posted on the Orientation website.

What is the plan for COVID-19 testing? Face coverings? Quarantine and isolation?

The college, with significant input from the ID Task Force and local health organizations, continues planning to ensure the college has measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That includes:

  • Testing: At this time, we are planning to follow MDH guidance, which is to test people who experience COVID-19 symptoms, as well as those who are considered close contacts of a person diagnosed with COVID. We will not routinely test asymptomatic people. That could change if the public health guidance changes. The Hamre Center is preparing to be able to provide testing on-campus for students, and Employment Services is preparing a set of resources for faculty and staff to get easy access to testing should they need it.
  • Face coverings: The consistent use of face coverings will be required in public indoor spaces on campus and when six-foot physical distancing cannot be maintained. The college will provide a system for requesting face coverings.
  • Health monitoring: Daily health self-checks are the best way for each person to monitor their physical health. The college will provide a screening tool and community members will be asked to self-assess for symptoms each morning. 
  • Quarantine and isolation: Reducing the number of students in on-campus residence halls allows us greater flexibility to quarantine students in single rooms should they be exposed. Students who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will be physically isolated. Physically-isolated students and students in quarantine will receive regular phone contact from campus health staff. Residential Life and the Office of Student Affairs will help coordinate arrangements for remote learning for physically isolated and quarantined students who live on- and off-campus. In addition, meals will be prepared and delivered for isolated/quarantined students on the college’s meal plan. Students will remain in physical isolation or quarantine until cleared by medical personnel.

Will students be required to self-quarantine before arriving on campus?

Unless guidance from MDH or CDC changes, Macalester will not require students to self-quarantine before arriving on campus. However, we strongly encourage students to practice the public health behaviors of maintaining 6-foot physical distance and wearing a face covering, especially when 6-foot distance cannot be maintained.

Students arriving from international destinations will be subject to the travel restrictions established through U.S. Presidential proclamations. Such restrictions may include a 2-week period in another country before entering the United States through one of 15 approved airports. Our International Student Programs Office continues to communicate with students impacted by these restrictions.

Will students be able to travel in the fall, including for the Thanksgiving holiday?

In the interest of public health, we will strongly discourage travel during the fall semester. Students who leave the Twin Cities at any point during the fall will be expected to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the Twin Cities. This means that students who go home for Thanksgiving should plan to complete module 2 remotely.

Will students who live off campus be able to access campus facilities? 

Students who live off-campus will have full access to campus facilities. We have limited the access of those who are visitors, i.e., not members of the Mac community.

What support is being provided for students, faculty, and staff who have underlying health conditions? Whom do I notify as a student? Whom do I notify as a staff or faculty member?

Protecting the health of our community, particularly those who are most vulnerable, is at the forefront of our planning. We know there are staff, faculty, and students who will not be able to safely return to campus in the fall, and we are ensuring our plans take their needs into account. If you are a student who requires a health accommodation, please contact Disability Services at disabilityservices@macalester.edu for support and guidance. If you are a staff or faculty member who requires a health accommodation, please contact Bob Graf at rgraf@macalester.edu.  

When will a plan for group gatherings – including athletic team practices, plans for fall sports, performing arts groups, etc. – be announced?

At this point, we can’t commit to a timeframe for announcing plans for group gatherings. These plans will be determined with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, the NCAA, the Infectious Disease Task Force, and the college’s working groups.

What are the college’s regulations surrounding small group socializing?

The current guidance from the governor’s office is to limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people in a room indoors and no more than 25 gathered outdoors. This still requires staying six feet apart as much as possible and always wearing a face-covering at gatherings indoors.

How are spaces on campus being adjusted for social distancing?

  • Building hours will be restricted, capacities will be reduced, and traffic will be limited.
  • In communal and learning spaces, we are reconfiguring seating to ensure people are seated at least six feet apart.
  • Hand sanitizers have been installed in multiple locations in each building, and sanitizing supplies will be available.
  • Plexiglass partitions will be installed at transaction counters around campus, and between individual sinks in residence hall restrooms.
  • All restrooms will be fitted with paper towel dispensers to reduce aerosolized virus particles from the use of hand dryers.
  • HVAC systems are being adjusted to increase the rate of air changes in buildings.

Will music practice rooms be open? Will music groups have rehearsals?

Yes. Practice rooms will be open with occupancy limits and stringent cleanliness procedures, and ensembles will run with safety modifications in place. The Music Department has been working to establish operational guidelines that will be available soon.

What opportunities will there be for student employment in the fall?

We are anticipating both remote and in-person student employment opportunities. We began that hiring process in April under the assumption of being on-campus. This was primarily because the student hiring process takes considerable time and the fact that we did not know what the future would look like back in April. Students who have been hired for a position in the fall were notified that conditions or circumstances related to their employment might change given the unknowns at the time. Naturally, a significant factor related to the availability of jobs depends on the decision to be in person or remote. 

What plans are being made for study away in the spring of 2021?

In May, Provost Moe announced that the college would not support study away for the fall of 2020. No plans have been announced for study away programs in the spring of 2021. The Center for Study Away team is communicating directly with affected students and has prepared 

information for students who had been planning to study away for Fall 2020 and for those planning to study away in Spring 2021. This information can be found on the COVID-19 and Study Away page. 

Is the college permitting travel for employees?

Currently, the college’s expectation is that there is no non-essential, work-related travel — either domestic or international — for employees. 

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Planning for 2020-21: Student Housing

How will Macalester’s residential housing options be modified for Fall 2020?

Based on guidance during an in-person walk-through with representatives of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), we are modifying our traditional residence halls to reduce the number of students living in these spaces. In order to adhere to the MDH recommendations, our residential housing offerings have been modified as follows:

Additional housing information was shared in a July 6 communication from Residential Life.

What details are available about the hotel option for student housing?

The college has contracted with the Drury Plaza Hotel (175 10th St E.). Residential student-athletes are required to live at the Drury unless they receive an approved housing exemption. Depending on the number of other (non-athlete) students who select this option, returning third-year and fourth-year students whose housing contract was voided and those who are on the waitlist due to fall 2020 study away cancellation may be housed at the Drury or, if the demand is too great, at a second nearby hotel. The amenities at this second hotel may be different.

The Drury Plaza Hotel is located in the Lowertown residential neighborhood of St. Paul. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the college will fully rent the hotel. This means that Macalester students will be the only occupants. The college will have full control of the hotel and will operate it as an extension of our housing program. Additional hotel information was shared with students and families on July 13.

Planning for 2020-21: Academic Topics

Will the Fall Semester be taught in-person, remotely, or a combination of the two?  

Our plan is to begin the fall semester in person, while providing a remote option for those who choose, or need, to learn remotely. In order to limit the number of students in a room at any given time and to accommodate students who will need to learn remotely, the faculty will offer a variety of instructional methods. Students can expect that classes will be a mix of in-person, remote, and some combination of the two. Additional details were shared in President Rivera’s Fall Planning Update.

How will Macalester conduct a Fall semester that minimizes health risks?

President Rivera’s Fall Planning Update includes a list of actions we are taking to support learning while observing best practices for physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and other preventative measures.

What will the 2020-2021 academic calendar look like?

The 2020-21 academic year will begin on September 2, 2020. 

  • Fall and Spring semesters will each be divided into two 7.5-week modules. Modules 1 and 2 for Fall semester, and modules 3 and 4 for Spring Semester. 
  • There will be 10 official class times, called blocks, for the 2020–2021 Academic Year.
  • Students will enroll in up to two (four credit) courses per module. 
  • Students will enroll in a minimum of 12 credits to maintain full-time status and a maximum of 18 credits over the course of the semester. 

Will exceptions be allowed for courses to be taught across modules?

Some exceptions will be made: 

  • Five-credit language courses will be taught across two modules.
  • A decision is pending for students in music ensembles. 
  • Senior capstones and other courses are not exempted from the one-module limit. 

How will language courses fit within the module-block structure?

Only accelerated language classes will run for the full semester (across both modules). All other language courses will be taken in one module, and the second course in the sequence will be taken the following semester.

Will courses be offered in Summer 2021?

Plans are underway to offer a Summer 2021 module. In this module, students will be able to take up to two courses. At this time, we expect that module to begin shortly after Commencement.

What flexibility will faculty have in terms of when they teach their courses and how many during each module? 

Full-time faculty may spread their five-course teaching load in Academic Year 2020-21 over the four modules and the summer. This will allow faculty the opportunity to teach no more than one course per module. It may also be possible for faculty who teach their five courses during the regular academic year to teach a sixth course in the summer as an overload. This possibility will be offered as a way to increase flexibility for faculty.

As departments develop their AY 2020-21 course schedules, we are not asking them to indicate which course will be offered in the Summer 2021 module. We do ask departments, however, to identify which faculty plan to spread their teaching load and teach one of their five courses in the Summer 2021 module.

Will faculty have the ability to arrange their schedules so that they are not teaching in one of the modules? 

In the interest of distributing faculty workload and decreasing the density of individuals on campus, faculty are strongly encouraged to teach in each of the academic year’s four modules. In some cases, such as in departments that teach multiple sections of the same course, for example, it may make sense for faculty to teach two courses in the same module. Each department will determine what works best for their curriculum. 

Faculty who opt to structure their teaching load so that they are not teaching in a given module should understand that they are not “on leave” during the module in which they are not teaching. As an example, if a faculty member decides to teach 2-0-2-1, they will be expected to continue their departmental and college service as well as advising during the module in which they are not teaching.

What is the plan for course registration for Fall 2020?

The course schedule for the fall semester, Modules 1 and 2, was posted on July 9. In addition, a list of fall courses, which includes information about instructors and planned mode of instruction, is available. Each course lists hybrid, remote, or to be determined, which represent the current intentions of the faculty at this time. Depending on public health conditions, these modes of instruction are subject to change.

For more information about registration, incoming students should refer to the First-Year Student Registration page. Returning students should refer to additional information on the Fall 2020 Registration Instructions page.

What additional technological support is Macalester providing to facilitate teaching? 

ITS, in consultation with the Classroom and Learning Spaces and Pedagogy working groups, is preparing to order technology kits for interested faculty to use in the classroom or while teaching from home in the upcoming academic year. These kits will likely include an iPad, Apple Pencil, webcam and microphone(s). The goal is to equip faculty with tools that can be used anytime, anywhere, regardless of course format or location. Training with these tools for teaching activities like slide annotation, recording lectures, and delivering content to remote students will be provided in partnership with the Serie Center. These technology kits will be purchased using emergency funds allocated by Macalester, rather than with individual faculty funding. In addition, AIAs will recommend additional technologies for specialized instructional needs. Look for more details on kits and related training later in the summer.

How will faculty personnel reviews proceed? 

Promotion reviews will follow the regular schedule. Pre-tenure reviews have been granted a one-week extension for submission of materials.

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Summer Guidance

Will staff and faculty continue to work remotely?

Most employees will continue to work from home, and are available via email. Those who have been working from home, but need to return to campus, will consult with their supervisor or department chair to coordinate the number of individuals in a space.

What are the college’s expectations for social distancing during the summer?

  • Observe social distancing guidelines by staying at least six feet apart.
  • Only two people should be in any small, confined space (such as an elevator) at a time unless they are in each other’s shelter group (meaning they live together or are regularly sharing space).
  • All members of the campus community should wear a mask when they are in indoor shared spaces (such as hallways, bathrooms, common areas) and/or if they are outdoors within 6 feet of people who are not already an intimate or household contact.  For examples of when a mask is indicated, please visit Protect Yourself & Others: COVID-19.
  • Students who are living on or near campus this summer, if you need a mask, please request one here.

Will campus buildings remain closed in the summer?

Buildings that are closed will remain closed for the summer. For example, if you come to campus, the Leonard Center facilities remain closed. Additional information about specific buildings will be communicated as changes occur.

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Staying Healthy

What should I do if I feel sick or have COVID-19 symptoms?

  • Everyone is expected to stay home when they are ill. Minnesota currently has the capacity to COVID test all symptomatic persons. Please do seek out testing if you have any of the symptoms listed by the CDC.
  • If a healthcare worker or public health professional advised you to self-isolate or self-quarantine please follow their advice. If you are a student currently living on campus and need support in self-isolating or self-quarantining, please contact Public Safety at 651-696-6555.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Our Government Guidance page includes links to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Minnesota Department of Public Health, and Ramsey County Public Health.

Can students still utilize Hamre Center for Health & Wellness services?  

Even though the Hamre Center is closed for appointments during the summer there will be someone in the office on Mondays and Wednesdays for Administrative support.  Emails and phone calls will take time for responses but checked throughout the week.

If you need care after hours, please visit Urgent and Emergency Care for resources. If this is an emergency, please call 911. 

What do I do if I have an urgent concern or an emergency?  

In case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

  • Macalester Public Safety is available 24/7 to provide advice or respond to a concern. Public Safety will also connect with Student Affairs staff who can assist and follow up.

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Support Resources

How is Macalester working to support students during this time? 

We will ensure that all Macalester students have food and a safe place to live. The college will work with all students to ensure they have the technology they need and are able to fulfill their current academic commitments. We will continue to work individually with students and families if extenuating circumstances arise.

A new Emergency Aid Program is available to help students experiencing financial distress. This program comes in response to a general concern about unexpected expenses that can disrupt a student’s educational trajectory, especially students who have no financial safety net. COVID-19 has underlined the need for such a program. More information about this program, and the form students should use to begin the process, can be found on the Financial Aid website.

What resources are available to support virtual community and wellness?

Recognizing the value and importance of the learning that happens outside of the classroom…even the virtual one, the Division of Student Affairs has created an online hub for student engagement, community, and involvement. Resources are in place for students to connect and find community through student organizations, programming, chat rooms, and other virtual programs. There will be opportunities to engage in wellness activities such as yoga, fitness classes, and guided reflection. The online hub will highlight pathways to a variety of campus resources available to students through remote connections. 

What support resources are available for faculty and staff?

Staff and faculty can access support resources through the Employee Assistance Program

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Ways to Help

How can faculty, staff, and parents help Macalester students?

Thanks to those of you who’ve asked how to support students. You can make a gift to the Macalester Fund, which provides critical flexible support that can be deployed rapidly wherever it’s needed. Gifts will help our students with unanticipated expenses and help every campus department reimagine remote student support and programming. Any gift is appreciated.

What can alumni do to help?

Many of you in our thoughtful and generous community have asked how you can help. Thank you! Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Support Macalester students in a time of need. As the needs of our students, faculty, and staff grow and evolve, gifts to the Macalester Fund provide critical flexible support that can be deployed rapidly wherever it’s needed. Your Macalester Fund gift will help reimagine remote student support and programming by every department—from the Library to Health and Wellness to Career Exploration. Your gift will also help meet the rising student need for food through Open Pantry, provide support for lost student employment wages, and provide supplemental financial aid for students whose needs have increased during this crisis.
  • Be available to share career advice. During this tumultuous time, students could really use your career advice. Turn on your CareerHelper badge in MacDirect to show students you are open and willing to connect.
  • Hire a Macalester student. Have an opening at your organization, even for part-time work? Fill out this quick Google form and we’ll share it with students.
  • Stay connected and supportive. Show your Macalester pride—in conversations, on social media, wherever you are. Share your love for students and each other. This pride will help bring comfort and will also help prospective students see the community they will be a part of if they choose Mac. Reach out to friends and classmates through your local or class-year social media channels as well as through MacDirect, our online alumni directory.


  • For students or parents of current students: Have a question that isn’t answered in our FAQ or on this site? Please email us at healthresponse@macalester.edu
  • For alumni: Have a question that isn’t answered in our FAQ or on this site? Please email us us at alumnioffice@macalester.edu

Reviewed: 7/13/2020