WACO, Texas – As students prepare to return to the classroom, either virtually or in person, Baylor University is getting ready for the next semester.

President Dr. Linda A. Livingstone released a statement Friday morning saying the university has had many teams planning for the start of the spring semester over the past couple of months as everyone continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A brief update was provided on several key areas:

•Semester Start Date: The university plans to start the spring semester as scheduled, with the first official class day on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
•Pre-semester Testing: A reminder that all students, faculty and staff are required to submit a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning to Waco. The Everlywell test kit ordering deadline for students is this Saturday, Jan. 9, at noon. After this date, students will be unable to order a test kit and need to secure outside testing at their own expense before the start of the semester. These students should submit their outside test results to Health_Services@baylor.edu with their name and Baylor ID number.
•Weekly Testing: All students, faculty and staff will undergo required weekly COVID-19 testing during the semester. A team of health experts believes this will be the key to unlocking additional normalcy as the semester progresses.
•Protective Measures: Facemasks and proper social distancing will again be required on campus for the semester. These are important safeguards at this critical stage of the pandemic, as well as to help reduce the spread of the common flu at the same time. In accordance with new CDC guidance, the length of quarantine for exposed individuals has been reduced – from 14 days to 10 days – which aligns with the isolation timeframe.
•Vaccine: Baylor has received 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine to date, which is being distributed in accordance with state guidelines to individuals in the Phase 1A group, which includes Health Center staff, emergency responders, medical personnel, and School of Nursing faculty, staff and students who work in hospital settings. Plans are being developing plans for Phase 1B, provided the university gets additional doses, which will include people 65 years of age or older or people 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition which places them at increased risk for severe illness.

Livingstone went on to say: “As the semester nears and campus activity returns, we anticipate a similar situation that we experienced in the fall with a large initial spike in COVID-19 cases. We’ve learned quite a bit about the virus over the past several months, and our Health Management Team and President’s Council are confident in the protection, mitigation and response measures that we have in place for a successful start and completion of the spring semester. We ask for your cooperation and support in keeping our Family First.

“To end on a positive note: Provided that our COVID-19 case numbers are low and compliance with health measures has been strong, we are planning to provide students a ‘wellness day’ in which there will be no classes on Tuesday, March 9 (March 10 for the Nursing School).

“University Updates
•Last summer we announced that Baylor would adopt a “test optional” admissions policy for incoming Fall 2021 students as a result of the extreme SAT/ACT testing availability challenges across the nation due to COVID-19. As a result, roughly half of the Fall 2021 incoming class has applied without test scores, and the academic profile is just as talented as years’ past. Unfortunately, the global testing challenges still persist today. To assist prospective students and their families, Baylor will confidently continue the test optional policy for both incoming Fall 2022 and Fall 2023 students and reevaluate for future years. This decision puts Baylor in the best position to provide an equitable application process and enroll academically successful students in higher education’s challenging years ahead.
•We’re asking all members of the Baylor Family to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in this year’s annual MLK Day of Service, sponsored by Baylor’s Office of Community Engagement & Service, on Monday, Jan. 18. This year, we’re asking participants to “serve where they are” virtually in a variety of ways. Information and sign-up information for these opportunities, which will include donations for the One Warm Coat Campaign and a Pet Supply Drive to benefit Waco’s ABC Clinic, will be posted here. Once you register, additional details will be provided in the days ahead.
•Baylor environmental science researchers Rebecca Sheesley, Ph.D., and Sascha Usenko, Ph.D., have been awarded an $890,000 grant by the Department of Energy Atmospheric System Research (ASR) for a fascinating study of the impact of urban pollution on thunderstorm activity in the Houston area. Their work is part of an overarching, multi-institution, multi-agency research project called Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions Experiment (TRACER). Drs. Sheesley and Usenko will map the atmospheric composition around Houston this summer with the hope to improve understanding of how urban air pollution changes the dynamics of these storms systems that routinely affect the largest city in Texas.”

Source: Baylor University