In response to Austin’s Stage 5 status, the university advised that we move into temporary density reduction and adjust our teaching modalities the past few weeks. You should have received President Hartzell’s most recent update on our plans to transition back to campus by Oct. 4. As he notes, we will be using the next two weeks as a transition period to return fully to the scheduled modality in your courses, with increased in-person learning and working. We want to make sure you, our faculty and staff, have all the necessary tools and resources to support you through this transition process.
We recognize that this has been an incredibly difficult year, and we’re so thankful to you for the work you’re doing for our students while sustaining the health of our community.
With the president’s guidance, we now have the next couple of weeks to begin transitioning back to our original specified teaching modalities by Oct. 4.
This shift won’t affect faculty members who have received ADA accommodations or those who were approved for a change in teaching modality for the full semester. Temporary and short-term changes to modality continue to be at a faculty member’s discretion, as they have always been.
We will be working closely with each department to finalize all Flexible Work Agreements (FWA) for staff members as soon as possible. Departments that have previously begun their FWA staff plans should continue as planned. Departments who have yet to implement staff FWA plans may proceed as early as Sept. 20 with the goal of having a full staff implementation of FWAs by Oct. 4. For staff members who are student-facing and student-supporting, your return to campus will need to be calibrated to support our class and co-curricular needs.
UPDATES IN CONTACT TRACING PROCEDURES
In the past few weeks, the university’s contact-tracing framework was carefully studied to identify necessary adjustments as we increase our in-person presence on campus. We’ve been working closely with our colleagues in University Health Services to support faster notification and, as you have seen in the president’s message, procedures have been adjusted to do so.
We must continue to encourage members of our community self-report positive cases, especially if they were tested off-campus, to ensure that contact tracing and notification can take place as quickly as possible.
Staff and faculty, for reporting your own COVID testing or symptom cases, please continue to do so by contacting Occupational Health Services (OHP). Supervisors should also support their employees navigating COVID reporting by contacting OHP on their employee's behalf.
Faculty, please make sure you are continuing to keep attendance and your seating or position charts. Find more information on developing seating and position charts here. If you would like a consultation on your seating chart, contact Assistant Dean Julie Schell. They are actively being used by BCCAL and have proven very useful. When you report a positive student case to BCCAL, do so by e-mailing BCCALL at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ensure you provide the following information:
1. Your course number and unique number
2. A seating or position and attendance chart
3. The last time and last date of attendance
4. The student’s EID.
For more information about reporting protocols for student cases, please see this flow chart.
Assistant Dean Julie Schell is readily available for protocol consultations, please contact her Julie.email@example.com if you need assistance.
Students are often asked what procedure to follow if they are exposed. For more information about what to do if you are identified as a close contact, please see this UHS guidance.
INCREASED TESTING CAPACITY
Along with masking and vaccinations, frequent testing is one of our most effective tools for keeping our community safe. We encourage everyone who is on campus to continue to participate in proactive community testing on a regular basis so we can detect asymptomatic cases and respond quickly.
Many of you are familiar with the PCT testing offered through University Health Services in the Glenn W. Maloney Room in the Student Services Building and in the Proactive Testing Jester Corner at Speedway & 21st St.
The university has added significant testing capacity to accommodate increased demand. Additional rapid antigen nasal swab testing options are now available through a third-party vendor in the Texas Union on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can schedule an appointment, or walk-ins are welcome. These tests are available at no cost to you.
We’re working to add a pop-up location near the Fine Arts part of campus to support testing for our community. We expect to have more updates about this very soon.
We are also working to make at-home testing kits available to those who are teaching or working on campus this fall. At-home test kits are not available to students. We’ll be in touch soon with more information about how those will be distributed.
While the delta variant still poses a high risk in Austin and Texas, we are heartened that positivity rates within our campus community have remained much lower than initially projected by our modeling consortium. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation closely, and we’ll make adjustments as needed to respond to changing conditions. We’ll have to continue to be flexible and adaptable as we work through the fall semester.
We thank you all for your patience and hard work in helping us fulfill our educational mission in providing our Fine Arts students with meaningful teaching and learning experiences this past year.