Dear Students and Families:

I hope this letter finds you all healthy and safe. I’ve been holding you in my thoughts as the college’s faculty and staff have been hard at work planning for the fall semester. We appreciate your patience as we adapt our practices in consideration of evolving public health guidance.

After careful consideration, our plan is to begin the fall semester in person, while providing a remote option for those who choose, or need, to learn remotely. Our highest priority is the wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff. While the delivery of our educational program will look different this fall, our commitment to our core mission of providing an outstanding learning experience for our students remains unchanged. Our planning has included evaluating insights from the spring, consulting with dozens of faculty and staff on campus working groups including the Infectious Disease Task Force, and seeking advice from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

We understand that members of our community will approach the fall with a variety of preferences and needs. For some, being on campus is the best and safest place for them to learn; for others, learning remotely or taking time off will make the most sense; for still others, getting to campus will pose a challenge. Our aim is to provide maximum flexibility to address students’ needs. Students who select a remote option for the first module of the fall semester will have the opportunity to continue remotely, or shift to learning in-person for the second module or at the start of the spring semester. Each student should carefully consider which option is right for them.

We know that in order to create a successful experience for all members of our community, we will need to work together with a shared commitment to protect each other’s health, while remaining flexible and responsive as conditions change. We will continue to follow, and in many cases exceed, guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the American College Health Association as we formulate our plans.

In addition to sharing our plans for the mode of instructional delivery, our goal with this communication is to provide as much information as possible to help guide your/your student’s decision-making about the fall semester. We want you to understand how the experience of being on campus will be different  given the public health practices we are implementing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, you will find at the end of this letter a list of actions we are taking.

We have created our plans after extensive deliberation and consultation. We continue to monitor the evolving national, state, and local public health guidance and will update our plans accordingly. Many questions remain, and we continue to work through them as a community. Our COVID-19 website contains responses to FAQs and provides comprehensive information about our planning.

Thank you to those who’ve shared their creative ideas about how to best support the health of our community. Opportunities for students to share their ideas have included the Student Voice Survey sent on June 24 and Reimagine Community. We are continuing to plan and broadly invite your innovative approaches to foster community on campus this fall. The Office of Student Leadership & Engagement is working on programming to create moments of justice, action, joy, celebration, and rest. The Student Affairs website continues to be a great virtual hub for students to access programming, get involved, and find support. Please continue to share your questions, ideas, and thoughts at

I am grateful for your understanding as we work through the many details of beginning the fall semester together in a new way, and I appreciate the support you provide to each other. I feel very lucky to be a part of this incredible community.


Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera


Living and Learning

The actions we are taking to support learning while observing best practices for physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and other preventative measures include:

  • Mode of instruction. Our faculty have been working very hard to create a fall class schedule with a rich menu of courses across the two modules. 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. With guidance from the faculty, the college is making a significant investment in technology and training to support this flexibility. The work that our faculty and staff are doing to prepare a new, highly flexible learning model, is not only necessary right now but promises benefits into the future to improve the academic experience for all students.
  • Classrooms and learning spaces. Based on guidance from the MDH and campus working groups, classroom spaces are being reconfigured to support 6-foot physical distancing protocols, and some spaces that previously have not served as classrooms are being repurposed for teaching. Instructional spaces where additional physical distancing may be required are being assessed. Our performing arts faculty are consulting with experts and working on physical distancing plans tailored to their specific groups and based on health guidance. In addition, we will supply gloves and training for classes/labs that use shared equipment.
  • Residence halls and off-campus housing. 
    • First-year students and returning second-year students, except student-athletes (who will be housed off campus), will be housed in traditional residence halls. To reduce density in the on-campus residences, most students will be placed in single rooms. Some larger rooms will be used to house two students.
    • All students, regardless of class year, who are currently signed up to live in the college’s non-traditional or specialty housing will remain in those housing assignments.
    • All housing on campus will adhere to, or exceed, Centers for Disease Control, Minnesota Department of Health, and American College Health Association recommendations and guidance for those spaces.
    • We are in the process of contracting with downtown St. Paul hotels for rooms that will enable us to offer housing outside of the college’s on-campus residence halls.
    • Student-athletes with housing contracts will be provided housing together in teams in hotels in order to minimize risks that will be created by close contact in training and potentially competition, should that be possible. Student-athletes will travel to and from campus by team via contract buses.
    • Juniors and seniors who currently are assigned to traditional residence halls will be offered housing in hotels. Students who had study away plans cancelled and are in need of housing also will be offered housing in hotels.
    • Costs for students placed in hotels will be comparable to on-campus housing costs, and on-campus meal plans (with to-go options) will be offered, though not required. Students will receive Metro Transit passes, and shuttle service will be offered as a supplement to public transportation between the campus and the hotels.
    • This plan to reduce density in on-campus housing and provide off-campus hotel housing was reviewed by the MDH and will allow almost all on-campus students to quarantine in place if they should become exposed to the virus.
  • Staggered move-in. Our process for on campus move-in will utilize public health best practices and be informed by our experiences during spring move-out. Students will be assigned a move-in date and time, with details to be shared later this summer.
  • Dining halls. Buffet-style dining will be replaced with to-go meal options. In order to allow for physical distancing, we will increase capacity and hours for dining on-campus.
  • Athletics. Guidance from MDH and from our athletic conference is forthcoming. The college will make decisions accordingly, and will communicate those decisions to student-athletes as soon as they are made.
  • Changes to physical spaces on campus.
    • Building hours will be restricted, capacities will be reduced, and traffic will be limited.
    • In communal and learning spaces, we are reconfiguring or blocking 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.
  • Internships/student employment. Students will be allowed to complete available academic internships and work-study, recognizing that many of these opportunities may be remote, altered, or in flux based on the pandemic. During travel to, and participation in, any off-campus activities, students are expected to practice the same physical distancing, face covering, and hand hygiene as they do on campus.
  • Events. Based on current public health guidance, we will not host non-college-sponsored events on campus this fall. College-sponsored events will be held remotely whenever possible and would be allowed in-person only if they conform to physical distancing and other MDH guidelines. We will continue to follow any changes to public health guidance as they are issued.
  • Off-campus activities. The college is not restricting attendance at off-campus events or gatherings. We do encourage each individual to consider the impact of their choices on others in the community. Avoiding activities that carry greater risk of contracting COVID-19 helps keep others safe. Regardless of venue, students, faculty, and staff are strongly encouraged to adhere to physical distancing, face covering, and hand hygiene guidelines.

Health Practices and Protocols

We will implement a number of protocols to reduce the risk of virus transmission. They include:

  • Community commitment.  Keeping everyone in our community as healthy as possible will require all of us working together, being proactive about monitoring our own health, and engaging in behaviors that help keep each other safe. Later this summer, we will provide a Statement of Community Commitment that we will ask each member of our community to sign, accepting responsibility to abide by the safety protocols we are putting in place.
  • Public health education and practices. New behaviors will be required in order to keep our community as safe as possible. All members of our community will participate in training on how to keep themselves and others safer. We will implement a public health campaign including training, signage, and regular communication to support physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, frequent and thorough handwashing, and staying apart from others when feeling sick. 
  • Face coverings. In order to keep those around you safer, 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 to stay in touch with how you are feeling physically. The college will provide a screening tool and community members will be asked to self-assess for symptoms each morning. 
  • Enhanced cleaning. Based on MDH guidance, our custodial team has realigned cleaning and sanitizing protocols to prioritize restrooms, classrooms, communal spaces, and high-touch surfaces across campus. Necessary supplies are being procured and supervisors are reviewing sanitizing techniques with staff to ensure proper training is in place. In addition to these enhanced protocols, we are reminding community members that disinfecting of high-touch surfaces will be everyone’s responsibility. Cleaning supplies will be located in classrooms, residence halls, workspaces, and other public areas, and a system will be in place for requesting additional supplies.
  • Medical services. Medical services will be available for students at the Hamre Center both via telehealth and in-person appointments on campus as appropriate.
  • Mental health.  Mental health support will be needed regardless of whether students are on-campus or off. Counseling support will be provided via telehealth and will be available to all students, regardless of location.
  • Testing and contact tracing. We are preparing to provide testing on campus for any student who experiences COVID-19 symptoms. Pursuant to MDH guidance, we are not planning to randomly test asymptomatic students at this time. Contact tracing will be led by MDH. At this time, the MDH guidelines are to not test upon notification of exposure, but rather to test if an exposed person (i.e. in quarantine) becomes symptomatic. A plan for routine testing of athletes will be finalized pending decisions by MDH and our athletic conference. We will add detail to our testing and self-monitoring plans based on evolving guidance.
  • Quarantine and physical isolation. Reducing the numbers 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.
  • Vaccinations. As returning students know, some vaccinations are required to attend Macalester and some are highly recommended. In the past, the seasonal influenza vaccine has been recommended. This year, however, it will be a required vaccine for all who plan to attend in-person classes or activities unless they have a medical exemption. Typically, the influenza vaccine is available in October. Please stay tuned for announcements from the Hamre Center regarding how to fulfill this new requirement.

Next Steps for Students

  • Incoming first-year or transfer students:
    • You will be asked later this summer whether you plan to participate remotely or in person.
    • Details about First-Year Course selection were shared with incoming first-year students on June 26. Details on registration for other courses are forthcoming.
    • Information about housing assignments will be coming shortly.
    • If you are planning to request a deferral, please do so here by July 15.
  • Returning students:
    • You will be asked later this summer whether you plan to participate remotely or in person.
    • Please watch for details shortly on re-registration and advising.
    • If you have a housing contract or have requested housing, you will receive information soon from Residential Life.
    • If you are planning to request a leave of absence, please follow this guidance by July 15.
  • All students, new and returning, are welcome to participate in a community conversation webinar with President Rivera on July 8 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. CT. During this conversation we will do our best to answer your questions about our fall planning and related topics. Students will receive a separate email inviting them to register for this webinar.


Published: 6/30/2020