Dear Faculty and Staff:
On Monday, Governor Beshear made the recommendation that schools in Kentucky delay in-person instruction until at least September 28. As this recommendation is taken back to school boards across the state for consideration and planning, understandably, questions have come up around how this change will affect WKU’s reopening plans and also how it will affect our faculty and staff members’ individual work arrangements.
We will reopen our campuses as planned on August 24, but it’s important to understand several key, underlying considerations and differentiators. The careful and intentional steps outlined in our Big Red Restart provide for fundamental safety measures to be implemented in ALL of our classrooms that some K-12 schools simply cannot provide because of space limitations inherent in the infrastructure of their school buildings.
At WKU, all classes will meet with two critical measures in place to mitigate transmission of the virus – six feet of distancing between ALL those in the classroom AND the mandatory wearing of masks. To be clear, if a class was not able to meet the minimum six-foot distancing guideline, it was either moved into a larger space where the guideline could be met or shifted online. We also transitioned online classes with more than 50 students and those taught by faculty who felt the online modality best supported their personal circumstances.
In addition, we will continue operating with reduced staffing in-person inside our buildings, with ongoing support of flexible work arrangements, and we have installed 380 Plexiglas barriers and 251 hand sanitizing stations to further mitigate the risk of transmission.
Because of this multi-faceted approach embedded with the judicious layering of crucial safety components, we feel confident that our plan not only supports our university’s ability to reopen and remain open alongside the pandemic, but most importantly, it protects the health and well-being of our faculty, our staff, our students and the communities in which we live.
We do recognize the additional stress our faculty and staff with K-12 children may experience if supporting virtual learning at home. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, WKU has made great efforts to remain committed to work/life balance by promoting flexibility in working arrangements, with the goal of supporting all of our employees the best way we can during this challenging time.
Our commitment to you remains unchanged. Flexibility and adaptability are key to us individually and as an institution as we reopen our doors and execute strategies designed to safely create as much normalcy as possible. Please, continue to have open dialogue with your supervisor as you navigate a plan that supports both you personally and the responsibilities of your role at WKU. We remain committed to supporting flexible working arrangements through the use of technology; information about remote working technology is available on our Working Remotely site or via the ITS Service Desk.
We hope to address your specific questions regarding work arrangements below.
Staff employees are encouraged to work with their respective supervisors to design work arrangements that are productive and accommodating to child care or other needs. In situations where agreement is not reached, employees may make an alternative work arrangement request for review through administrative channels. The request form is available here. Where appropriate, employees may also request a disability-related accommodation through the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity/University ADA Services.
Faculty are encouraged to work with department heads/chairs in the event that the later in-person start of K-12 schools impacts their ability to teach their courses as previously arranged. In situations where agreement is not reached, faculty may make an alternative work arrangement request (request form is available here). Where appropriate, faculty may also request a disability-related accommodation through the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity/University ADA Services.
Please know that these are challenging times, with information changing sometimes daily. As we continue to work through this moment in history together, we hope to also experience growth as an institution as our faculty and staff lean on and support one another in extraordinary ways.
Timothy C. Caboni
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Executive Vice President for Strategy, Operations and Finance