Healthy Huskies

The 2020–21 Academic Year at USM

Below is the overall framework within which the University of Southern Maine will be educating students in the 2020–21 Academic Year:

  • Classes will be offered in an accessible combination of online, blended, and face-to-face modalities. (Please see below for descriptions of each modality.) Our campuses will feel and function differently this fall from what we have experienced in the past, with fewer people working and studying in person and more work happening off-site. 

  • USM will maintain face-to-face instruction in lab, studio, and other courses where in-person learning is required or highly preferable. Field and clinical placements will be held as usual, provided that placement sites are accepting students and that CDC guidelines and UMS expectations for health and safety can be followed.

  • In-person attendance policies will be relaxed such that students who must isolate or quarantine can continue their learning remotely without penalty. Students will be able to see their final class modalities (face-to-face, online, blended) in MaineStreet.  
  • Classroom capacities have been reduced to comply with current social-distancing guidelines: most class meetings will be held with 20 or fewer total students in spaces designed for much larger groups. Classes larger than 20 may be held outside in tents or in non-classroom spaces like Hannaford Hall or the Field House. Per state guidelines, no gatherings of more than 50 people are permitted.

  • All university buildings and facilities will have traffic patterns assigned and signage installed to direct people’s movements in ways that maintain social distancing.

  • We will provide face coverings to all residential students as well as faculty and staff, and everyone is required to wear a face covering on campus. For details on acceptable face coverings, please see the UMS Face Covering Guide

  • Academic buildings will be closed to the general public, with some spaces requiring key card/student ID access.

USM faculty spent summer 2020 preparing to teach in our new environment. Brightspace, our new learning management system, has replaced Blackboard and offers more intuitive features and a mobile-friendly application. As many as 250 faculty members have already engaged in targeted training with USM’s Center for Technology Enhanced Learning, and more faculty members seek training every day. The Center for Collaboration and Development is offering free summer workshops for faculty to receive instruction in topics like accessible remote teaching, supporting remote learners, and digital solutions to peer writing review. Finally, while all student services — from counseling to advising to research help — will continue to be offered remotely, USM has added new, targeted student support for distance and online learning on its new AGILE website through the Learning Commons. 

Course Modalities Explained*

  • Asynchronous Online (Dates and times on MaineStreet will be listed at “TBA.”)
    With Asynchronous Online classes, 100 percent of course instruction is online (Brightspace), with no specific meeting times required and no expectation that enrolled students will come to campus. Asynchronous is not self-paced; students will be responsible for meeting assignment deadlines as determined by the course instructor.
  • Synchronous “Online Live”
    If a course is listed on MaineStreet as “online live,” it will be taught online via Zoom at specific times during the week. Students will be required to be present on Zoom at the specified times. The days and times the course meets each week will be listed on MaineStreet.
  • Blended
    Blended courses can be listed as any combination of asynchronous online, synchronous “online live,” and/or face-to-face in-person instruction. The number of required in-person or online-live sections may differ for each blended course. Specific dates for these meetings should be listed on MaineStreet within the course notes and/or in the syllabus provided by the course instructor.
  • Face-to-Face
    Face-to-Face courses consist of required in-person instruction on campus at specific days and times that are listed on MaineStreet. Courses that are fully face-to-face or blended with an in-person component will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place that include physical distancing, sanitation measures, and required face-coverings for all students, faculty, and staff.

*USM's Advising Team generously provided these course modality descriptions.

Testing at USM

Thank you to the thousands of Huskies who reported for testing when requested during the 2020 fall semester. Your participation helped with our efforts to curb the spread of the virus and keep the pack safe. We will begin the spring 2021 term with required Safe Return Testing for key in-person populations in January and continue with mandatory testing of randomly selected students, faculty, and staff through May. More information about these testing opportunities will be shared in early 2021. In the meantime, students remaining in residence through the break may continue to receive requests for Asymptomatic Testing directly from For the rest of Husky Nation, FREE testing is available throughout Maine. See the Keeping Maine Healthy COVID-19 Testing Locations to learn where you can obtain a test. (Scroll down a bit to see the list.)

The University of Maine System (UMS) has entered into partnerships with the nonprofit biomedical research institution The Jackson Laboratory and ConvenientMD to provide comprehensive COVID-19 testing services.

Under the agreements, CMD will provide “wrap-around” services, establishing sites at each UMS university to gather samples and administer and report results. The samples will be tested by JAX for the presence of the virus. The partnership will focus on RT-PCR testing, which is considered one of the most reliable COVID-19 tests, with high accuracy and low false positives.

Each UMS campus will begin the semester with a plan and commitment for broad-based infection testing, which complies with and takes safety steps stronger than those currently called for by civil authorities. Every student, faculty, and staff member from states or places beyond Maine will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test in hand when the semester begins. Further, other categories of vulnerable populations will warrant special consideration. The universities will conduct and require asymptomatic testing throughout the semester via high-quality RT-PCR testing through established partnerships. Universities will have isolation plans and spaces that permit students to continue their education during periods of mandated isolation and quarantine should such periods occur.

Please see the UMS announcement on testing for more information on the System testing partnership with the Jackson Laboratory and ConvenientMD.

Housing at USM

On-campus living will look and feel different as a function of the protocols we have developed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. There will be some additional policies in place to help prevent the spread of the virus among students, and we will develop and implement a pledge to guide our community through making good decisions to mitigate personal and community risk.

  • We will provide face coverings to all residential students.

  • Everyone within the residence hall is required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in public spaces. These include, but are not limited to, laundry rooms, hallways, and the main lobby.

  • Students are not required to wear a face-covering in their apartment or suite unless there is a staff member present for facilities work or emergency response.

  • Some spaces on campus have been set aside for isolation for those who may become sick or who test positive for COVID-19. Students identified through contact tracing who need to quarantine (those possibly exposed but not sick) will be managed on a case-by-case basis.

Announcements will be made in the coming days about how these changes to on-campus housing will be managed. For more specific information, please see the Housing FAQ section on this website.  

Dining at USM

Dining at USM will look very similar to how it has in the past, but initially will be set up with many prepackaged food options and limited seating capacities in campus dining locations.

  • Guests will be encouraged to take their food back to their room with them or order ahead for pick up as much as possible to keep a limited number of guests in the dining room at any given time.

  • All guests will be required to wear a face covering when entering or exiting our dining facilities. If you choose to dine in our limited seating, you will, of course, be able to remove your face covering when you sit down to dine at your table.

  • For the safety of our guests, we will be implementing social distancing procedures in the dining hall when students first return in the fall. This will include reduced seating capacity to facilitate following the six-foot social distancing guideline.

For more specific information, please see the Dining Services FAQ section on this website. 

Cleaning and Disinfecting at USM

During the pandemic, USM Facilities Management (FM) custodial staff will continue to deploy enhanced cleaning strategies that include increasing the cleaning frequency of high-use areas, high-touch surfaces and restrooms. Our custodial staff primarily uses Proctor and Gamble’s Pro-Line Disinfecting Floor and Surface Cleaner II, a no-rinse cleaning and hospital-grade disinfectant. This product meets OSHA Blood Borne Pathogen (BBP) requirements and is EPA registered. It also kills a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses and fungi, including MSRA and VRE, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV-1, Influenza A, H1N1, mold and mildew.

  • Common areas will be cleaned and disinfected once a day and enhanced cleaning of touchpoints and restrooms multiple times a day.

  • Every classroom will be disinfected and sanitized daily. In addition, disinfectant wipes will be made available for students and faculty to wipe down their individual area before class starts, and disinfectant wipe stations will be made available for individual use in several areas.

  • Cleaning and sanitizing of independent work areas (offices/cubicles) will be provided once per week. This will include the disinfecting of doorknobs and light switches as well as vacuuming. Personal areas such as desktops will not be maintained by custodial staff.

  • On all campuses, social-distancing signage will be installed on floors and in areas where waiting lines typically form.

For more specific information, please see the Facilities Management FAQ section on this website. 

Working at USM

The following information is drawn from the UMS Return to Campus Guide. USM’s COVID-19-related HR policies will follow and/or be informed by System-level policies. 

  • No one should report to work on campus unless and until they have been explicitly cleared to do so by Human Resources or your campus or department leadership. The need to reduce the number of people on campus to meet social distancing requirements will continue for some time.

  • Regarding large gatherings that have typically been in person (meetings of teams, committees, councils, etc.), please continue to work remotely until social distancing restrictions are eased.

  • All members of the UMS community will be given advance notice of when they will be expected to return to work on campus.

  • The re-population of our campuses will be tightly controlled and coordinated to mitigate potential risks and to prioritize the health and safety of all faculty and staff, as well as the communities we serve. No unit or department should increase on-site staffing levels beyond current needs to support critical operations on campus without approval from your respective dean, vice president, or division leader.

  • Over time, UMS plans to phase in the return of faculty and staff in a coordinated process to prioritize appropriate social distancing, availability of face coverings (and PPE where applicable), hygiene protocols, symptom screening, testing capabilities for COVID-19, and contact tracing.

  • UMS will expand on-site staffing based on an assessment of mission-critical operations, the ability to control and manage specific work environments, and the necessity of accessing on-site resources. Return-to-campus decisions, once approved, will be issued by your respective dean, vice president, or division leader.

As on-site staffing increases and operations expand, the UMS will closely monitor and assess the potential spread of the virus. If localized outbreaks emerge, tighter restrictions and reduced on-site staffing may need to be implemented again.

For more information on employment-related protocols during the pandemic, please refer to the UMS Return to Campus Guide or contact Human Resources at USM.

Browse Frequently Asked Questions

View Official Communications