Campus updates for summer 2020

Summer reopening guidelines

In order to reopen the college in advance of the fall term and to ensure a smooth transition back to campus, the following guidelines have been developed by the COVID Emergency Response Team in conjunction with supervisors, the provost, and the faculty deans.

These guidelines are for the summer of 2020 only. New guidelines will be available in August for the fall term. At the end of this document, you will see we are still grappling with a few more questions. We believe that this document will be refined and adjusted as supervisors use it and share their questions, ideas, and feedback.

Supervisors will be responsible for working with their teams and determining who should come back to campus, when, and who can continue to work from home. The goal is not to get everyone back on campus as soon as possible. Rather, if the supervisor believes staff should be back in the fall, to have those employees back before students return, so IT and B and G are not overwhelmed with requests for support. Those determinations will be different for every department. Continuing operations is the goal. Supervisors can best determine how to achieve this goal. .

First and foremost, people who are sick or experiencing symptoms must stay home; Anyone experiencing symptoms must report those symptoms immediately to Barbara Conry, COA’s medical point person. Second, everyone on campus must follow basic hygiene procedures, beginning with frequent handwashing and sneeze and coughing behavioral precautions.

General buildings and grounds

1. Unless otherwise authorized, the college campus will not reopen to students or visitors during the summer.

  • Exceptions to this rule include vendors/deliveries, community gardeners, the CHE construction crew and subs, admissions visits, and other special circumstances. All such special requests must be cleared with Millard Dority or a designate.
  • Visitors who have received permission to be on campus will be sent a parking permit.
  • All persons passing through COA campus are required to wear a face cover and follow social distancing protocols (see below).
  • The barricades at the main and south entrances will remain up until the arrival of students on August 22; enter only through the north entrance.
  • By July 1 all buildings will be equipped with signage/ visuals to indicate traffic flow in and out of the building, rooms, and hallways. This will enable people to keep 6 feet apart whenever

  • By July 1, all buildings will be equipped with hand sanitizing stations and other necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Staff and faculty

  1. Staff and faculty not already working on campus will be allowed to return to campus and to their offices on July 1, 2020 or as soon as their Area Plan is approved (see below).
  2. Supervisors are required to submit a brief Area Plan to Millard Dority before they reopen to ensure there are adequate protections in place to keep everyone safe. (See the questionnaire at the end of this document.)
  3. Should a department need physical modifications such as a plexiglass window, this must be installed before employees come back to work.
  4. PPE will be distributed through requests to Millard Dority.


  1. Masks are required in buildings. If you have your own office, you may remove your mask when you are inside with the door closed.
  2. If you have more than one person in an office, maintain six-foot distancing rules and use the group’s best judgement and information about available space and premorbidities to determine if masks should be worn.
  3. Masks are not required outside if you are in a fully open area staying 6 feet away from others, such as on a trail and passing someone.

The above is an excerpt from the complete document which can be read by clicking here .

A message from President Collins
June 3, 2020

Dear all,

It’s Week 10 of COA’s Spring trimester. On Saturday, June 6 we will gather (virtually) to celebrate our seniors at the college’s 47th Commencement Ceremony. Words from retiring faculty member Dr. Rich Borden, students, and the ethnobotanist, author, and activist Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer will provide a sendoff for our graduates and will mark the close of one of the more remarkable years in our history, which has taken place in the midst of the fear and loss of a global pandemic and the pain and violence of racial injustice.

I want to let you know that we have been working diligently to plan for a fall term that will bring us safely back together on campus for academic and community life in line with the college’s mission. Over the past month, COA’s COVID-19 Response Team—comprised of staff and faculty from across the institution—has been engaged with the COA community, the Maine Independent Colleges Association, Maine’s Congressional Delegation, the Jackson Laboratory, the MDI Biological Laboratory, and the MDI Hospital to fill out that fall framework with as much detail as possible. Although there are many questions yet to be answered and certainly some that have yet to be asked, I want to give you our best sense of what the fall term will look like at COA.

Teaching and Learning. During spring, some faculty experimented with the concept of decentralized, place-based learning, where we remained focused on our approach of interdisciplinary, project-oriented learning, but students and faculty participated in that experiment remotely and from many distinct geographic locations. While the majority of faculty, staff, and students will be on campus this fall, there will be a number who cannot, or choose not to, be with us in person, and so we will approach learning through a hybrid of on- and off-campus activities.

What this might look like for a full course load: one course might be field-based, with students and faculty venturing out into Acadia National Park as a group (with appropriate physical distancing—see below); a second could be a discussion-focused class where six students and a faculty member meet in Gates and are joined by four students on Zoom from anywhere between Machias, Maine and Maputo, Mozambique; and a third class that might involve the faculty themselves teaching remotely and engaged with a cohort of students locally and remotely in synchronous and asynchronous online learning.

Would it be logistically easier to have fall term entirely online? In some ways, yes. But we’ve also heard from students, faculty, and staff that being online has added a host of new challenges, while also reminding many of us how much we gain when we are together, physically. Challenge is at the heart of what we study and how we engage, and I believe that by flexing our creative muscles in the fall we can learn a lot and become better at what we do. Unlike in spring term where faculty were forced to jump from in-person to online teaching over the course of our two week spring break, they have the entire summer to design their approach to hybridity. Importantly, I have promised to provide faculty with the human and financial resources they need to get the job done. I have the ultimate confidence in them.

Safety. There’s a lot we don’t know about the behavior and epidemiology of this novel coronavirus. But our experiences with risk management and our association with the island’s world-class genetics labs and hospital give us the confidence that we can manage the new risks foisted upon us by COVID-19. Managing involves five key components: distancing, PPE, airflow, disinfection, and quarantine/testing protocols.

  • Distancing: Though the World Health Organization uses a one-meter distancing guideline to lessen the chances of transmission, at this time we are using the more conservative figure of six feet, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. We have evaluated all of our teaching spaces on campus and have established maximum occupancy and safe seating and teaching arrangements for all of those spaces. We are designing flow regimens through buildings to minimize contact. Because that work has eliminated some of our spaces entirely, we are partnering with other institutions and establishments in walking distance to campus. It might mean that a theater production class happens in the Town Hall, but we will learn to be flexible and support each other in new ways to make these changes feasible.
  • Personal protective equipment: Expect to wear masks in class and in other public places during the fall term. We’re hopefully all getting used to that initially-uncomfortable behavior, but we know that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. We have installed hand sanitizing stations throughout campus, will be installing plexiglass barriers in key areas, and are temporarily halting our single-use plastic initiative and asking key staff to wear gloves.
  • Airflow: Recent studies point to the importance of air exchange between outdoor and indoor air as a key bulwark against the virus. We’ve assessed the air handling systems in all of our teaching spaces. Some of our oldest and most loved buildings might be off limits because of air handling issues. We are investing in air filtration systems that filter particulates down to .3 microns and those systems, together with distancing and PPE, will go a long way to keep the COA community safe.
  • Disinfection: We are designing a cleaning schedule that will mean every teaching area will be disinfected after every class. Though recent reports question the longevity of the virus on surfaces, we felt there was no need to risk not cleaning. We are grateful to have caring, dedicated staff that are up to the task.
  • Quarantining/Isolation/Testing Protocols: Unfortunately, testing is the big unknown. Currently, we are asking our Congressional delegation with our Maine Institutions of Higher Education partners to make teaching institutions a top priority for intermittent testing. I will personally follow up on any testing protocols as I know more throughout the summer. We have engaged with other local partners to establish quarantining and isolation facilities and are developing staffing plans to serve students who become sick and/or test positive for the virus. We are making a quarantine period part of our orientation session—see below for more detail.

Timing. Our ten-week trimester system is particularly well suited for these times: we can complete the entire ten-week trimester before Thanksgiving and therefore avoid shuffling students back and forth over those holidays. Here are some key dates for understanding the flow of COA campus life from the summer through the end of fall term.

  • June 15: We will announce our campus reopening plan for bringing staff members back to the COA campus so we can best support the needs of our evolving fall term.
  • September 3: First-year international students will arrive on campus, assuming international travel is possible.
  • September 6: All other students—first year and returning—are required to arrive on campus.
  • September 6-13: Orientation. First-year students will participate in a COA orientation and modified Outdoor Orientation Program.
  • September 6-18: Quarantine. Should we determine it is necessary to have a quarantine period, it will occur across seven or 14 days, possibly stretching from September 6 through the end of week 1, Friday, September 18. Should we need to use both of those weeks, the first week of classes will be held in an entirely online format.
  • September 11: Convocation, the official opening of the academic year.
  • September 14-November 20: Fall Term. Our ten-week fall term will not have a week zero nor a faculty retreat break.

Living and Eating. We eat very well at COA. Students, staff, and faculty are intimately involved in the production and consumption of food on our farms, in residences, and in our dining hall. COVID-19 doesn’t change that, but it will impact how our dining operations will work. Right now the plan is for our kitchen to continue to make the great, sustainable, delicious food they’re known for, but to deliver that food differently. Deliver may be the operable word, with food being delivered, to-go style, to those living on campus. For other meals, we may continue the bag-lunch pickup service kitchen staff have instituted this spring. We will communicate more detail on food services, but know that we will continue to meet dietary needs and restrictions, just like in any other term.

Living in campus housing will be a bit different as well. We are reassessing our cleaning and air-handling needs for each of our houses, but we know that individual houses will become crucial subcommunities at COA and it will be especially important to monitor health among those groups. At the same time, our procedures will allow for a more relaxed, social environment among the students of a particular home.

Governance. Governance has proven to be a crucial mechanism for keeping connected during the spring term and we expect that to be the case in the fall as well. All College Meeting (ACM) and other standing committees of our governance system will continue to operate using ZOOM in the fall. Beyond ACM, we will have to limit the size of gatherings. But we’ve experimented with many ways to ensure the need to distance physically doesn’t inspire unhealthy social distancing, and will continue to do so.


Thanks for reading all of this—I know it’s a bit long, but I wanted to make sure to share all of our current updates with you before the term was out. Please keep an eye on your email over the coming weeks and months, as I will be sending regular updates to keep everyone informed.

Be well,

Darron Collins, Ph.D. ’92
COA President

A message from President Collins
April 27, 2020

Dear Community:

Based on the recommendations from our partners at the Jackson Laboratory, the MDI Biolab, and the MDI Hospital, we are going to begin requiring mask use on the COA campus until further notice. This is part of an evolving plan for normalizing behavior that can help us reduce the transmission of the Novel Coronavirus-19 here at COA.

  • All COA staff, faculty, and students must wear some form of covering of the nose and mouth while outdoors on campus and while using inside public spaces (hallways, bathrooms, TAB, Library, etc.).
  • Students still living on campus need not wear their masks at home
  • Masks need not be worn in personal offices
  • It’s crucial that mask-wearing not compromise other distancing protocols — continue to maintain at least six feet of separation
  • Guests or personnel involved with delivery or pickup must also utilize masks
  • EL Shea and subcontractors are exempt
  • Washable cloth and disposable/medical masks are both acceptable
  • If you are having trouble buying or making such PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), please contact Millard Dority and you will get what you need — we’ve got two excellent local mask-makers that can help!
  • Please use your best judgment around enforcement: we are trying to minimize the occurrence of spittle passing from one person to the next, either through the air or from a surface. Kindly, gently inform people you see without a mask that we have a new policy of mask wearing on campus. The aim is to move toward a safer scenario for these times — we will get there efficiently, but it will take time.

Thank you.