July 10: Return to Campus

July 10: Returning to Campus

A message from President Hopey about Merrimack’s fall opening.

Dear Merrimack College Community,

Merrimack College will be opening for the Fall 2020 semester one week earlier than originally scheduled in order to avoid the possibility of an outbreak due to traveling that may take place over the fall holidays or a second COVID-19 wave expected in the late Fall. The Fall 2020 adjusted schedule is as follows:

  • On-campus and limited remote learning undergraduate classes for the Fall 2020 semester will begin on Monday, August 24, 2020, and end on November 25, 2020. Finals for all undergraduate courses will be remote from November 30, 2020, through December 4, 2020.
  • The College will re-populate residence halls in waves, starting Saturday, August 15, 2020, through Sunday, August 23, 2020.
  • Freshmen move-in will begin on Monday, August 17, 2020.
  • Graduate classes start dates for the Fall 2020 semester will vary based on each program. Graduate students will receive program start information directly from their Program Directors.
  • Residence halls will close for the Fall 2020 semester on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, at 9 p.m.

We realize that there are several unknowns and questions that can make planning for this Fall very difficult for our students and their families. To answer many of your questions, attached is a comprehensive “Fall 2020 Return to Campus Handbook” that will steer our community to a safe and successful reopening. We expect every student and employee to familiarize themselves with the handbook, it contains our guiding principles for safely opening in August and staying open and safe throughout the entire Fall semester.

The situation that COVID-19 presents to our campus is enormous and complex and it will take the responsibility and discipline of every member of the Merrimack Community to mitigate the spread of this disease as well as to contribute to the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff. Returning to campus this fall will be very different. However, to ensure proper planning, it is critical that we understand the intention that every student has for enrollment. Therefore, the College is providing each undergraduate and graduate student one of three enrollment options so that they may choose the enrollment option that is best for them.

  1. Option #1: Come to campus and take part in a combination of in-class and online courses: If you select this option, you will have access to the widest array of courses and services. Whether you choose to live on campus or commute from home, you may participate in on-campus activities and take advantage of all available campus services.
  2. Option #2: Take virtual classes/learn from home: If you select this option, you are choosing to participate in virtual courses and online services, and you will not be allowed on campus. Due to their interactive, hands-on nature, some courses cannot be offered in an online format, thereby limiting your course choices. Please note that, like most other institutions, there is no tuition reduction for selecting this option.
  3. Option #3: Take a COVID-19 leave of absence – for one semester, or a full year – without penalty. If you select this option, you will not be enrolled in courses at Merrimack or participate in any College-sponsored, on-campus, or online programming unless otherwise noted, and you will not be allowed on campus. Those who select this option can re-enroll in the College without re-applying after the COVID-19 leave of absence is completed. Students interested in taking a leave of absence must complete the COVID-19 Leave of Absence Form. Athletes considering this option should consult their coach regarding the impact on their eligibility. (Certain programs such as nursing and teacher education that require state licenser may be exempt from this option. Students should follow up with their Program Directors before selecting this option.) 

Students are encouraged to read the attached “Fall 2020 Return To Campus Handbook”, discuss each enrollment option and the possible risks with their families, friends and medical providers in order to choose the option that is best for the fall.

Undergraduate and Graduate students are required to complete an “Intent to Enroll” form by 5:00 p.m. E.T. on Friday, July 17, 2020. The “Intent to Enroll” form will be sent to every Merrimack student individually shortly after receiving this email. Please continue to monitor your Merrimack email account. If you do not receive an “Intent to Enroll” form through email, please contact the Task Force or call (978) 837-5599.

COVID-19 has significantly affected the College’s operations over the past few months and will continue to do so until a vaccine becomes available or COVID-19 is eliminated. As you will read, our reopening requires many steps: a phased repopulation of the campus, new community expectations and support, monitoring of health conditions, testing and contact tracing, contingencies for containment as necessary, multiple modality teaching strategies and a rethinking of campus space. Epidemiologic science tells us that strategies such as these are among the best ways we can keep our community safe, but these strategies are expensive.

To alleviate the extraordinary expenses of COVID-19, the College has reduced expenses, eliminated positions and reallocated more than $20 million dollars in its FY 2021 budget to mitigate against the spread of this disease and safely open the campus to ensure our students can successfully continue their education. We have also taken considerable operational steps to configure the campus to meet the challenges created by COVID-19. In addition to new expenses and reconfigured spaces, the extraordinary costs of safety measures, such as weekly testing and testing supplies, even with the budget cuts, are difficult to absorb. Therefore, the costs of testing needs to be shared with students and a new temporary COVID-19 fee has been assessed to cover testing costs.

We know that the information in the “Fall 2020 Return to Campus Handbook” is complex and that our students and their families will likely have questions regarding several of the policies and procedures that have been outlined before they complete their “Intent to Enroll” Form. Therefore, I will be hosting several Town Halls next week to address any questions you may have. Please join us for a presentation of the fall reopening plan as well as to participate in a live Q&A. The Town Hall dates and registrations are as follows:

Upperclassmen Students: Monday, July 13 at 5:00 p.m. Please click here to register.

Freshmen and New Transfer Students: Tuesday, July 14 at 5:00 p.m. Please click here to register.

Graduate Students: Wednesday, July 15 at 4:00 p.m. Please click here to register.

The same characteristics that have driven Merrimack’s recent growth and prosperity — thoughtful planning, administrative agility, educational innovation, outstanding faculty, our Catholic Augustinian values and traditions, student coaching and a dedicated community — brought us through a tumultuous Spring and will guide us as as we take on our latest challenge — returning to a safe and secure residential campus this fall.

This Fall will be like no other we have experienced. Our success, and the success of our community and our students, will require that we approach our changing circumstances with open minds, patience and tolerance towards each other, and a disciplined mindset that involves trusting one another and valuing contributions from every member of our Merrimack community.

Should you have any questions about our reopening plans within the “Fall 2020 Return to Campus Handbook” or about your return to campus in the fall, please contact the Task Force or call (978) 837-5599 or visit the Reopening Merrimack’s Campus Website.

I look forward to welcoming you back to Merrimack this Fall.

Be well, be safe and God Bless Merrimack College, its students, employees and alumni.


President Hopey