Dear Parents and Families,
Greetings from the Hope College Parents’ Council! As co-chairs of the council, we are hearing from other parents whose students are experiencing a wide range of emotions as they prepare to return to Hope — excitement, uncertainty, nervousness and everything in between! No matter what the emotion, it’s clear that Hope students are eager to be with each other and with their professors again.
In a virtual meeting with students and families, President Scogin explained that, in order for the campus community to be together, in person, all semester long, students will need to do their part. He urged all families to talk about expectations and responsibilities during the fall. We’re writing to encourage you to do the same, and to start those conversations now — the sooner, and the more frequent, the better!
Not sure where to start? Here are some questions that can start conversations:
- Are you eager to return to campus? If so, what do you most look forward to? What are you most nervous about? Remind your student that the best way to maintain a safe in-person experience, all semester long, is to follow all the safeguards. You’ve heard these before, but they’re worth repeating: wear a face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth; distance six feet or more from others; wash hands well and frequently; keep personal and shared spaces clean; participate in testing; and comply with quarantine/isolation protocols. When practiced by everyone on campus, these safeguards decrease the risk of widespread infection and increase chances of remaining on campus.
- What new daily habits will you need to build? For many students, the fall semester will usher in new daily habits, including wearing a face covering and screening themselves every morning for symptoms. Hope will provide every student with a machine-washable face-covering. But as you probably know, everybody has a preference for brands and face-coverings designs. Encourage your student to select the kind they like best and bring a supply with them when they come to campus.
- What are the risks associated with not following the safeguards? It’s going to be tempting to get a little lax about the safeguards. Remind your students of the risks of doing so, including:
- Having to shift to 100% remote classes, as the students experienced in March;
- Spreading the virus to classmates, professors and staff members, especially those who have underlying health conditions and are immuno-compromised;
- Spreading the virus to neighbors and residents of Holland as well as employees of downtown Holland businesses; and
- Becoming infected themselves.
- What are you going to do if there’s a party or social gathering off campus? Socializing is a normal part of the college experience. This semester, students will need to think about how to adapt their social behavior to reduce the risk of spread. The college can help students build a safe and healthy living and learning environment on campus, but students will need to take responsibility for a safe and healthy social environment off campus. Unfortunately, parties and social gatherings have been the source of spread on other college campuses across the country. Students give themselves the best chances of uninterrupted life on campus by practicing the safeguards at all times, not just when they’re at Hope.
- What will you do if your friends or roommates aren’t following the safeguards? Encourage your student to connect with their roommates and friends about expectations for living and socializing together. If they feel nervous about initiating the conversation, encourage them to reach out to their Resident Assistant (RA) for help. Also, if your student becomes concerned that another student, a group or an employee has chosen to not follow a commitment to safeguards, please encourage them to file a report via the COVID Concern Form. For health-related concerns, the Health Center will contact the necessary persons to offer guidance and instruction. For behavior-related concerns, the individual(s) will be contacted by either Student Development (students) or Human Resources (employees), with possible disciplinary action to follow.
- What will you do if you’re feeling anxious or isolated? Some students feel nervous about the prospect of coming back to campus and being in a close-knit community. If your student is anxious about the pandemic, listen to them and remind them about the resources they have at Hope. The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) stand ready to assist, and so does the Campus Ministries team. If your student will be living on campus, they can contact the Residential Life staff, including RAs. For questions about physical health and wellness, including questions about symptoms of COVID-19, the Health Center staff is available. And of course, professors, advisors, coaches and staff members are eager to help, too.
- What will you do if a friend tests positive? A positive test prompts a series of actions. If a student is symptomatic or tests positive, they will be moved into Hope’s isolation housing. A member of Hope’s contact tracing team will reach out to the student and begin working with them to prepare for the contact tracing investigation, which will be conducted by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. The team member will help the student understand the health department’s processes and also help them develop a list of individuals with whom they’ve had close contact. Honesty by all involved is paramount here to ensure the protection of others in this process. Finally, though your student will not be able to visit their friends in person, they certainly can communicate and be supportive from a distance!
- Did you know you can be quarantined even if you’re not sick? If your student comes into direct contact or close contact with an individual who has COVID-19, they will need to move into quarantine housing. Quarantine reduces the risk of spread throughout the campus community. Again, this measure — recommended by the CDC and the local health department — significantly increases the campus community’s chances of remaining in-person for the entire semester. Efforts to avoid quarantine put other students and employees at risk, and may result in a shift to remote classes.
- What will you do if you need to go into quarantine or isolation? Students will be permitted to go home to quarantine or isolate, if their family is agreeable and within driving distance. If you and your student decide this will be the best option, you will need to following these rules:
- The student may not use public transportation to go home.
- If the student is ill, someone (e.g., a family member) must be responsible to pick them up in their personal vehicle.
- The student will be in isolation on campus until they are picked up.
- Once the student is at home, public health guidelines should be followed strictly.
- The student may return to campus once they have met appropriate college and public health guidelines to be cleared.
In significant ways, the ability to remain in person through the semester rests in the hands of our students!
If you need more guidance about how to talk to your student about life at Hope this fall, we encourage you to connect with Dr. Richard Frost, dean of students, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-395-7940. Dean Frost is always happy to talk to parents and families, no matter what the situation!
While there is a lot of uncertainty right now, here is what we know for certain: Hope College is doing everything it can to prepare for the fall semester, and the faculty and staff are fully committed to their students.
We wish you and your student all the best for a happy, healthy and productive fall!
Darren and Judy Gross
Co-Chairs, Hope Parents’ Council