Marching Back Update - New Dates for Fall Semester: May 20, 2020

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As we begin the summer term, I wanted to update you on the ongoing planning the college is undertaking related to COVID-19 and the fall semester.

Most importantly, I want you to know that we have decided that Carroll College will begin fall term classes in-person on August 17. This modified semester eliminates the traditional Fall Break and ensures that all students will complete their courses, including finals, before Thanksgiving on November 25. We are making this decision in consultation with medical professionals, Lewis and Clark Public Health, and the latest information available to us about the potential progress of the virus. Fortunately, Montana has seen relatively few COVID-19 cases, but the concern remains that the virus will reemerge, and it will be particularly difficult to manage cases once the flu season hits. An effective strategy in many places has been limiting travel, and this schedule allows us to limit some of the large-scale student travel that typically occurs during a traditional fall semester.

This change in the academic calendar affects a number of events and operations on campus and we are working through those adjustments currently. Please see the timeline below and know that we will keep you informed along the way.

Marching Back Team

Several weeks ago, we made the transition from Incident Command where we were primarily focused on ending the semester successfully, to the formation of a new team called, “Marching Back.” This team is focused on fall 2020 and has established the following Guiding Principles to direct their work:  

  1. Consider the Health and Well-Being of the Carroll Community and Beyond;
  2. Ensure Students Continue to Receive a Quality Academic and Co-Curricular Experience;
  3. Evaluate Financial Impact When Making Decisions - Immediate & Long Term;
  4. Carry on Critical Business Operations as Usual to the Best Of Our Abilities In A Different Manner, If Necessary;
  5. Minimize Anxiety Through Grace and Compassion During and After the Incident.

The goal of the team is to develop a plan to provide a comprehensive on-campus educational experience for the fall 2020 semester.

The team is being advised by Dr. Andy Gilbert, a physician with St. Peter’s Health, who also serves on the Board of Trustees. We are in close contact with Lewis and Clark Public Health, and are also coordinating with the Montana University System.

Timeline of Decision-Making

This team is currently meeting several hours each week and completing assignments in each functional area including academic affairs, housing, dining, athletics, and more. The group is building on the good work that was done by faculty and staff prior to the end of the spring term developing plans for how to deliver instruction in a way that can provide for social distancing and other safety measures depending on where we are within the cycle of the pandemic.

The current timeline for the team is:

  • May 31 – Draft plan to Cabinet
  • June 12 – Cabinet meets to finalize plan
  • June 15 – Preliminary plan released to the Carroll community and posted to the Carroll College website
  • Beginning June 29 – Bi-Weekly updates will be sent to faculty, staff and students from the Marching Back Team or Cabinet regarding what to expect when returning in the fall.

Interim Decisions

In the meantime, as employees return to campus and we resume some summer activities, we have made some initial decisions. Each division head will be working to implement plans for bringing their area back to full capacity under guidance of the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and in consultation with the Cabinet.  

In order to keep our campus as safe as possible, beginning on Tuesday, May 26, we will be asking that all employees, students, and visitors wear cloth face coverings when inside buildings on campus (including hallways and stairwells) as well as in public settings outside, where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Employees working alone in their offices and students who are alone in their room, do not need to wear masks. If you have questions, please ask your supervisor or RA, and if you do not have a face covering (mask), they can help identify resources for how to obtain one.

On May 26, we will be asking every employee to start daily self-health checks. Each employee coming onto campus will be asked to report that they have completed a check of ten COVID-19 symptoms each day. The process will come from your supervisor. Over the summer we will be working on automating this process.

As the state of Montana moves into Phase Two on June 1, students traveling to Carroll from another state/country are strongly encouraged to self-quarantine at their home for 14 days prior to traveling to Helena and Carroll for summer housing. A health questionnaire will be provided by Student Life and must be turned in prior to access being granted for summer housing. Summer housing residents may not have guests/visitors in the residence hall (Borromeo) during this phase. 

Key Areas of Future Decisions

There are a number of areas that are being explored in order to make sure we have a safe and healthy opening in fall 2020. During the month of May and into early June, as plans form and we continue to receive up-to-date information, policies and procedures may change. I ask for your patience as we work on preparing the best plans possible. Please know that we are addressing every single area on campus, including how to appropriately clean all areas and how to maximize safe distancing in the residence halls, classrooms, dining room, and other areas, as well as how to adjust orientation and welcome back activities. 

There are hundreds of decisions that need to be made, supplies that need to be procured, and individual conversations that will help inform our response. 

I would please ask that each of you give us a little time and grace as we continue to make these decisions, knowing that we are working toward ensuring that you are safe and healthy as you return, our students can continue their educational journey, and we stay on track with the vision of Carroll College to be a beacon of light and a source of hope for our greater community into the future.


John E. Cech, Ph.D.