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Fall 2020 Semester Educational Plan - updated July 17, 2020

Dallas Theological Seminary aims to provide the healthiest learning environment possible while continuing to offer the best theological education available. To that end, we have established the following enhanced health and safety plan in order to offer in-person instruction this fall at all of our locations where it is permissible. While the preventative measures we have implemented are thorough, it is still possible a DTS student, staff, or faculty member will test positive for COVID-19

The following  prevention  protocols outline DTS’s policies enacted to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campuses and at all DTS locations.  Along with the response measures, these protocols either meet or exceed both the CDC’s  “Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education” (March 18, 2020) and “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education” (May 30, 2020).  

Preventative Health and Safety Policies and Protocols for Fall 2020

The following preventative measures form a baseline and represent the minimum steps DTS will take to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff while still allowing DTS to offer in-person courses this fall.  

  • Prior to visiting any DTS location, all students, employees, contractors, and visitors must adhere to the following safety measures:
    • Daily Self-Screening—Complete a daily self-screen for COVID-19 using the DTS Self-Screening Questionnaire. This includes daily taking one’s temperature at home before arriving at any DTS location. Hand-held infrared digital thermometers are located near the entrance of every campus building in a clearly marked area for self-screening for individuals who have not taken their temperature prior to arriving. 
    • Travel Guidelines—Follow these DTS Travel Guidelines for Self-Isolation.
      • International Travel—Those who have traveled internationally are required to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to any physical DTS location other than housing. This is in holding with current CDC recommendations.
      • Domestic Travel – Those who travel domestically and have had close contact with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for 14 days from the time of exposure to the virus before returning to any physical DTS location other than housing. Please follow the CDC’s travel safety suggestions while traveling to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
      • Event/Conference Travel—Those who attend an event or conference where masks were not worn and social distancing from attendees (who are not members of one’s household) was not be maintained are required to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of the event before returning to any physical DTS location other than housing.
  • The following preventative measures will be in place at all DTS locations:
    • Increased Signage and Awareness of DTS Protocols—Signage will be posted at all DTS locations to remind students, staff, and visitors of our preventative measures and health safety protocols. Additionally, the DTS Self-Screening Questionnairewill be posted on each building’s entry locations to remind people to make sure they are symptom free.  
    • Enhanced Sanitization and Cleaning Protocols—DTS has implemented the following measures to increase sanitization and cleaning at our locations:
      • Frequent hand washing and/or hand sanitization is an effective method for limiting the spread of the coronavirus on surfaces. Therefore, DTS has placed hand sanitization stations in high traffic areas, at building entry points, next to elevators on all floors of all buildings, and in all work spaces and conference rooms.
      • DTS has increased both the frequency and duration of our cleaning routines in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. All common areas, classrooms, and restrooms are cleaned multiple times per day using hospital grade disinfectant. In addition, disinfectant wipes and sprays are provided in all offices and common areas.
    • Face-Covering Requirement—With the Fall Semester marking a return to our normal capacity and operational levels at DTS, we are requiring that face-coverings be worn indoors at all DTS locations in addition to following standard social distancing measures. See DTS Face-Covering Policy for specific details.  
      • This policy applies to such indoor locations such as (but not limited to) classrooms, common areas of buildings, and on-campus retail locations. When outdoors, face-coverings must be worn whenever six feet of social distance cannot be maintained.  
      • Cloth face-coverings (masks) must meet CDC recommended specifications and cover the nose and mouth.  Face shields may be used in lieu of a mask as long as it is a full-face shield that extends past the wearer’s chin and wraps around the side of the face. 
    • Social/Physical Distancing—DTS  will be making numerous changes to our locations in order to help our constituents maintain the recommended six feet of social distanceat all times.  
      • All high-traffic areas at our campus locations will be specifically marked for one-way pedestrian traffic flow. This includes (when feasible) all entrances, exits, hallways, stairwells, and classrooms in high-traffic or high-occupancy buildings. 
      • Restrooms, breakrooms, and common gathering areas will be marked with limited occupancy signage to ensure social distance is easy to maintain. 

The following  preventative  measures will be implemented for all classrooms in which live, face-to-face classes are taught. These are in addition to the measures outlined above in Institution-Wide Preventative Measures. 

    • Self-Screening before Coming to Class—Professors will remind students on the first day of class that all students need to follow the  preventative  measures outlined above when coming to any campus for classes, including self-screening protocols (see Self-Screening Questionnaire).  This includes individuals daily taking their temperature at home before arriving at any DTS location. Hand-held infrared digital thermometers are located near the entrance of every campus building in a clearly marked area for self-screening for individuals who have not taken their temperature prior to arriving. 

 

    • Directional Entry and Exit from Classrooms—In classrooms with more than one entrance and exit, signage will be provided to direct students to enter the classroom through one door (or doors) and exit the classroom through the other door (or doors). 

 

    • Hand-Sanitizing—Stations for hand-sanitizing will be provided inside the entry doors to classrooms. Students and faculty are asked to use them when entering and exiting classrooms. 

 

    • Assigned Seats—Students will be asked to identify the seats that they occupy on the first day of class and then attempt to sit in the same seat throughout the semester if possible. This will reduce potential exposure across the entire class and make it easier to trace student contact in the event that a student later tests positive for the Coronavirus. 

 

    • Blocked Seating to Ensure Social Distancing—The first row of seating in classrooms with fixed seating, or in which the first row of seats cannot be spaced at least six feet from the lectern/podium (or the professor), will be blocked off. In classrooms with fixed seating, students may sit in the first row as long as the distance from the podium laterally is at least six feet and as long as they maintain at least six feet between themselves and other students. Alternate rows of fixed seating should be blocked off to ensure social distancing. 

 

    • Use of Face-Coverings in Class—Students and faculty will be required to wear a mask or approved face-covering during class even when social distance is maintained, due to the duration of time and contact in traditional classroom settings. 

 

    • Barriers for Professors—All professors must wear or remain behind a protective barrier when lecturing. Plexiglas barriers will be installed on fixed podiums where feasible. Professors who intend to remain behind the barrier while teaching will not be  required  to wear face masks or face shields once situated at the lectern. Faculty who do not remain behind the barrier while teaching must wear either a face mask or face shield while teaching. 

 

  • Staggered Course Times—Courses in high-occupancy buildings, or those occurring during busy times will have start and end times that are staggered/offset in order to limit crowds in hallways and buildings as well as to allow additional time to clean classrooms. 

The following preventative measures will be implemented for all offices and workspaces at DTS locations. These are in addition to the measures outlined above in Institution-Wide Preventative Measures. 

    • Departmental Workspaces—All open departmental workspaces, conference rooms, and breakrooms will be regularly cleaned and disinfected with hospital-grade disinfectant and will have increased signage reminding employees and visitors of our enhanced health and safety protocols.

 

    • Reception Areas—To ensure adequate social distance is maintained, all open reception areas will have occupancy limits posted and the chairs will be marked-off and/or spaced out. 

 

    • Breakrooms—All departmental breakrooms will have signage to remind employees to wipe down high-touch surfaces before and after each use, and sanitizing wipes and sprays will be provided. 

 

    • Individual Offices—Employees will be provided with extra sanitization supplies and disposable masks. Employees will wipe down high-touch areas before and after having visitors in the office. Masks may only be removed when an employee is alone in one’s workspace or office.

 

  • Conference Rooms/Meeting Spaces—Employees are encouraged to use video conference tools instead of having physical meetings. If meetings must occur in-person, then social distancing must be maintained AND face-coverings must be worn during the meeting. 

Positive COVID-19 Case Response Protocols for Fall 2020

While the preventative measures we have implemented are thorough, it is possible a DTS student, staff, or faculty member will still test positive for COVID-19. The following protocols outline DTS’s response when a student, staff, or faculty member shows symptoms of or tests positive for COVID-19 at the Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, or Washington DC campuses or when taking any class offered at one of our extension sites. Along with the preventative measures, these protocols conform both with the CDC’s “Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education (March 18, 2020) and “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education (May 30, 2020).

It is essential students, staff, faculty, contractors and guests: 

  • Self-Screen every day before visiting a DTS campus or extension site. 

AND 

Guests with two or more symptoms are required to stay away from all DTS locations and seek medical attention from their normal healthcare providers.  

Once a DTS student, staff, or faculty member completes the self-reporting form with two or more symptoms, the seminary will take several immediate actions: 

    • Notify—Every person with whom the self-reported student, staff, or faculty member had close contact within the previous 48-hourswill be notified that someone has presented with symptoms of or has tested positive COVID-19. Personally identifiable information will not be shared to protect an individual’s privacy. According to the CDC, “close contact” is defined as being “within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes” (source: Contact Tracing for COVID-19).  
    • Enforce Self-Isolation—Those individuals who are notified as being in close contact with a self-reported student, staff, or faculty member will be asked to self-isolate until receiving a negative COVID-19 viral test. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-report to DTS. If an individual resides in campus housing, the housing staff will work with the individual to make sure self-isolation can be maintained. 
    • COVID-19 Viral Testing—The CDC provides detailed information on COVID-19 viral testing. In addition to consulting one’s primary care physician, testing locations can be found at the state and local  
    • Clean and Disinfect—In addition to broad, elevated cleaning measures already in place, DTS will clean affected classrooms, academic/staff departments, or common areas according to the standards set for by the CDC. These locations will remain closed until deemed safe to reopen.
    • Offer Remote Learning—During the self-isolation period, isolating students can continue their courses remotely through video conferencing and Canvas assignments; isolating staff can work remotely (when possible). The course professor or department supervisor will communicate instructions when needed. 

    • Facilitate Return to Campus
      • Self-Reporting with Symptoms—According to the CDC, “For persons recovered from COVID-19 illness, CDC recommends that isolation be maintained for at least 10 days after illness onset and at least 3 days (72 hours) after recovery” (source: “Symptom-Based Strategy to Discontinue Isolation for Persons with COVID-19”). A self-reporting student, staff, or faculty member may return to campus according to these standards or upon receiving a negative COVID-19 viral test result.
      • Self-Isolating without Symptoms—Those self-isolating due to close contact with the COVID-19 illness can return to campus after 14 days or after receiving a negative COVID-19 viral test result. Staff and faculty members should consult with their supervisor before returning to work. 

Fall 2020 Educational Plan

DTS’s goal this fall is to offer as much in-person teaching as possible in as safe a manner as possible. This will require some important changes to the Fall 2020 semester.

The biggest change to Fall 2020 is that after the Thanksgiving break, all traditional weekly classes on the Dallas, Houston, and DC campuses will shift to online instruction. This move follows the lead of health experts and other universities and is designed to minimize the spread of the coronavirus on campus after Reading Week and the Thanksgiving holiday. 

The Fall 2020 term will start on Monday, August 24, 2020, as planned. Courses will NOT have a delayed start. Reading week is November 16–20 and the term ends Friday, December 18. 

  • Fall New Student Orientation will happen online for all campuses.
  • Chapel requirements are reduced to ensure smaller public gatherings.
  • Online after Thanksgiving  – Hybrid and extension courses will continue as scheduled; but regular, weekly courses on the Dallas, Houston, and DC campuses will have an “online week” early in the semester and will move online for the three weeks following Thanksgiving break (11/30–12/18). Professors will post details for each course on Canvas. 
  • Select events will serve boxed meals, rather than buffets. The number of event attendees will be limited to meet the social distancing requirements of the space available.

Each campus and teaching location will follow their state and local guidelines and the building guidelines in place during the fall term. If certain locations are under different guidelines or circumstances than the main Dallas campus, DTS will determine necessary changes and communicate them to students, faculty, and staff at those locations.

We are asking all students, staff, faculty, and members of our campus community to remain flexible during this unprecedented time. Our motto is to “Teach Truth. Love Well.” We will do our best to honor the educational and personal commitments we have made to our community.