April 7, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families, 

I am writing to share our current thinking for the fall 2021 semester. As many of you know, classes will start on August 30, and we are planning a return to fully in-person teaching and learning for the 2021-2022 academic year. I look forward to this return and know that you do as well. 

On the basis of what we are learning from the CDC and other sources of expertise, we anticipate that some health and safety measures may continue to be necessary for the fall. We hope these measures will be mild in comparison to this year’s protocols, but this will depend upon positive developments in the nature of the pandemic over the coming months. As always, we will follow current public health guidelines and make determinations of what we believe is best for the Amherst community to operate as safely and effectively as possible. 

Based on what we know now, returning students should anticipate some degree of testing, limits on gathering types and sizes, and a mask requirement, at least in certain situations. We are evaluating whether to make vaccination mandatory for students and will communicate a decision as soon as we have concluded our discussions. Our COVID-19 webpage will continue to be a resource for up-to-date information about health and safety guidelines.

Public health guidance permitting, we expect that faculty and staff will return to on-campus work before the start of fall classes. Our Human Resources Working Group, which was formed in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, is developing a plan and a timeline for this aspect of the return to campus while also evaluating whether elements of remote work for staff may be maintained in some form moving forward. They will be soliciting input from staff in the coming months in anticipation of sharing a plan in early summer. In the meantime, please contact HR@amherst.edu with any questions.

Of course, we are also making contingency plans for a different scenario as the fall semester approaches. There are developments that could make it unwise to bring all students back to campus or to offer only in-person classes. We will continue to follow and adapt to the evolving public health situation and public health guidelines, locally and nationally. 

This preliminary information is just a start. We will continue to communicate with you throughout the next weeks and months as we have the information we need to fill in details. We welcome your questions about any aspect of campus life as we share our plans in more detail.

I encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible and continue observing the public health measures that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly mask-wearing and social distancing. And, once again, I thank every single one of you for your part in keeping the College community as safe as we have been able to stay.