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The Massachusetts Reopening Plan, and Planning for Smith, May 19, 2020

Dear students, staff, faculty and parents:

Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released the state’s plan for reopening businesses, recreation and other activities.

I am sharing the report with you because it represents the first state-specific framework to inform our own planning for the coming year. Later this month, we expect further counsel from the state on the conditions that will allow colleges and universities to reopen. These recommendations will provide much-needed clarity and momentum to our campus groups that have been working since late April on our own plan for 2020-21.

In addition to the state’s plan, we are also informed by a recent report of the American College Health Association for safely reopening campuses, as well as ongoing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

Note that all of the expert recommendations forefront the need for robust, repeated diagnostic testing as a precondition of returning to life in community. To that end, I am working closely with our partner institutions in the Five College Consortium, as well as with the CEOs of Cooley Dickinson and Baystate hospitals, to leverage our collective power to source and share testing capacity for our collective students and employees.

In the meantime, we continue to gather and assess the best information possible and develop plans that are reasonable and responsible. The academic planning group, led by Provost Michael Thurston, is considering a range of approaches to our curriculum that prioritize safety, flexibility and academic quality. To help each of you in your planning, we commit to sharing our plans for the fall in early July.

In order to safeguard those students and employees living and working on campus, we anticipate that remote work will continue through much of the summer. Faculty requests for exceptions to the remote work policy can be addressed to the Office of the Provost, which will consult with the Committee on Academic Priorities; staff requests can be addressed to Human Resources. Please note that exceptions will only be granted when there is a compelling reason.

We understand that some faculty may wish to return to campus to work in their labs and/or to use campus-based collections and academic resources. While laboratory access is permitted by the state in its reopening plan, we are not prepared to grant such access at this time. Safe reopening of labs requires compliance with newly defined safety standards and protocols. Provost Michael Thurston will work with the science planning committee and the CIRT to develop guidelines for limited access to labs and will communicate those guidelines and the process for seeking access soon.

In closing, I want to thank each of you who have written with your ideas about planning for—and managing through—the COVID-19 pandemic. I continue to welcome and benefit from your good thinking; please write to

Stay safe and be well.


Kathleen McCartney