Fall 2021 Planning

RISD is simultaneously planning for two possible fall scenarios—Near Normal and Vaccine Failure—to inform our planning and preparations. RISD will base implementation planning on the Near Normal scenario, with the Vaccine Failure scenario as the contingency. RISD will continue to communicate updates and essential information throughout the spring and summer.

Planning Timeline

  • April 19: Anticipated scenarios announced
  • April 23: Deadline for students on leave of absence to declare reinstatement 
  • May 17: Deadline for departments to notify students requesting reinstatement
  • June 7: All fall 2021 course modalities posted
  • June 14-17: Web registration for fall 2021 open to students
  • Early July: Announcement of likely scenario and implementation plans

Scenario I | Near Normal

Over 75 percent of the general community population is inoculated, the student population is almost entirely vaccinated, the effectiveness and the longevity of the vaccine is sufficiently established and widely accepted, and social distancing is no longer required.

Public Health
RISD will strongly encourage vaccination for employees, but will not mandate vaccination. However, RISD will mandate that all employees disclose their vaccination status prior to the fall semester so that mitigation protocols such as testing, quarantine, close contact status, etc., can be followed accordingly. RISD will require COVID-19 vaccination for students in addition to the current required vaccinations. Under the Near Normal scenario, RISD will continue to require face coverings, arrival and surveillance testing (frequency to be determined), and standard isolation and quarantine protocols for positive cases and close contacts. However, based on these mitigation efforts and the assumed vaccination regime RISD projects that social distancing will not be required as of fall 2021 and will not require a quarantine period before the start of the fall 2021 term. Unvaccinated students will be required to arrive early for on-site vaccination. 

Classrooms, studios and shops can return to pre-pandemic densities. Three course delivery modes will remain available to all programs (hybrid, in-person, online) and should be utilized to optimize teaching and learning goals as RISD tests pedagogical innovations over the past year. RISD assumes a very small number of remote students (instruction provided at program discretion). 

Housing and Student Life
Under the Near Normal scenario, students will be housed in single, double, and triple rooms with capacities as designed and quads will be converted to triples. Kitchens, laundry rooms, lounges, and work rooms will be re-densified following public health guidance on social distancing. RISD will return to indoor seating in dining venues in accordance with state guidelines but outdoor dining space will also continue to be available. Use of mobile ordering will continue in Portfolio, CoOp Market, and potentially in cafe spaces for convenience and efficiency. Isolation meals will continue as delivery service to 15 West and the quarantine meal pick-up process will be refined. CAPS, Health Services and Disability Support Services will continue to provide in-person and virtual appointments and support. CSI will offer in-person programming and support for clubs and organizations.

Space and Facilities
Reassigned spaces will be returned to their previous assignee and function. However, in many cases, simply returning spaces to a pre-pandemic configuration may not be desired, and a degree of deliberation and planning should be exercised to re-densifying the campus. Lounges and common areas that are discontinued as workspaces will be returned to their original function and configuration. RISD will continue to prioritize high levels of air filtration and will maintain an increased frequency of regular maintenance, continue to set exterior air setting to the maximum permitted by the system design, adopt MERV 13 HVAC filters as the RISD standard in all fixed mechanical systems, and continue making stand-alone HEPA ventilation units available until ASHRAE or CDC guidelines recommend otherwise. Custodial staff will continue to clean and disinfect all key areas of campus multiple times per day and high-touch areas.

Museum and Stores
The RISD Museum anticipates being fully open to all. Social distancing will no longer be enforced, but mask-wearing will continue to be required. Museum curatorial staff will continue supporting student research with one-on-one appointments and academic programs staff will continue supporting faculty in developing curricular connections for courses, being taught in all modalities, that take advantage of in-person and digital resources. Cafe Pearl will be open according to the current state and city guidelines. Public programs will be either hybrid, in-person or virtual. Facilitated class visits will be hosted in the study centers, with safety restrictions being based on relevant RISD classroom/group size guidelines. Building on lessons learned during this year, the RISD stores will remain open, with certain restrictions. Public access will be allowed in both stores but they will  continue to augment their online retail operations and extended pick-up services. Customer service staff will wear face coverings. 

Financial Impact
RISD will start FY22 at a financial disadvantage (no revenue) due to restricted on-campus summer operations. Under the Near Normal scenario, meeting full enrollment targets are envisioned and auxiliary operations fully operational. Some minimal investment may be needed to continue testing, cleaning and other mitigation efforts to carry out safety protocols. Every effort will be made to enroll 2,500 students under all scenarios. A loss of students will require expense mitigation efforts.

Scenario II | Vaccine Failure

There is a new outbreak (new variant), vaccines are of questionable efficacy or distribution has been delayed, and RISD has to revert to a version of the AY 2020–21 operating conditions.

Overall Approach and Impact
Should the Vaccine Failure Scenario appear likely, RISD will continue operations in the same manner as the current academic year (2020–21) with social distancing, de-densification of shared spaces, aggressive surveillance testing, contact tracing, and isolation/quarantine measures, and a continued face covering mandate. Academic programs would continue to be dedensifed and offer many hybrid and virtual courses. Student support services and co-curricular programming would primarily be delivered virtually. Financially, RISD projects a 10 percent reduction in enrollment in this scenario, which would result in a potential loss of revenue of $17 million. Increased testing, continued operation of the respiratory clinic and other costs are projected to be $1.5 million for a total impact of $18.2 million.