FAQ for Staff and Faculty

Last updated on June 9, 2022 at 3:30 pm EST.

COVTEST

General Info and Return to Work Procedures 

General Prevention Measures

We encourage all community members to take measures to protect themselves to prevent the spread of these viruses as outlined below:

Both the influenza virus and the novel coronavirus have similar recommendations for prevention and protection:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. 
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home and away from public places when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, cough down into your elbow, and never into your hand.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Mask Policy

  • We are continuing to require masking indoors for all employees. Outdoor masking is optional as of March 7, 2022. 
  • The College recommends people wear KN95 masks, if possible. We have ordered a supply of KN95 masks for employee use to be distributed to on campus employees based on availability and we are awaiting their arrival. Additional supplies will be ordered as they become available. KN95 masks will be available through Tim Hutton/Purchasing (Buildings & Grounds).

Commitment of Shared Responsibility

We are asking students, faculty and staff to read and sign the Commitment of Shared Responsibility (CSR) for the Spring Term. A COVID CSR Panel will review instances and reports of non compliance and determine any consequences.

COVID-19 testing on campus 

Effective May 30, 2022, the College has ended weekly COVID surveillance testing. Employees should continue to monitor their own health and refrain from coming to campus if they are symptomatic. 

Individual COVID testing will be required for community members who are symptomatic. The College will continue to offer rapid antigen tests to those who are symptomatic. Tests may be obtained by contacting Human Resources.

What happen if I test positive?

Any faculty or staff member who tests positive will be contacted by Human Resources, and will be asked to isolate. Faculty or staff should consult their healthcare provider.

As a reminder, faculty and staff who test positive or become sick with COVID-19 related symptoms while at work should self-isolate, leave campus, and contact the Dean’s Office (faculty) or Human Resources (staff), and their healthcare provider.

We will follow CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines regarding quarantine. Working in partnership with Human Resources, Ali Tartaglia, Director of Health Promotion, will contact anyone who is considered a close contact and provide guidance.

Will there be required symptom tracking?

The College no longer requires daily symptom tracking through CoVerified. However, as a reminder, employees who become sick with COVID-19 related symptoms while at work must immediately notify a supervisor and should self-isolate until such time that the College can safely escort the employee off-campus. Faculty should contact the Dean’s Office and staff should contact Human Resources. Employees should also contact their healthcare provider.

Will faculty and staff be able to access the Dining Hall and Roz's Cafe? 

Yes! The Dining Hall and Roz's Cafe are now open to faculty and staff but in-person dining options may be limited at times for safety and health reasons.

Staff Purchase of Meal Plans

  • Staff can purchase meal plans in the Bookstore’s online store.
  • Options include: a ten-pack ($55) or a half-term pack ($140 for lunches every weekday through the end of term).
  • You can also purchase meal plans at the Bookstore, but we encourage people to purchase via the online store, if possible, to reduce the staff demands in the bookstore.
  • Please allow at least an hour between purchasing the plan and heading to the dining hall to allow the Bookstore staff time to process the purchase and load it on your card.

Free Coffee Is Back!
Staff will again be able to get a free mug of coffee every weekday with their ID.

Roz’s is a single-use-plastic free zone, so please make sure you bring your own beverage container. Roz's will soon have reusable glass mugs and plant-based plastic-free mugs available for purchase. Snack items purchased will come in a returnable mason jar; to receive a discount on the next purchased item, please return the jar and the lid.

Visitors to campus

You may soon see some visitors in the Dining Hall or Roz’s—prospective students, final candidates for faculty or staff positions, and guest speakers for events and classes. We want you to know that they will all be in compliance with the visitor policy (i.e., they are vaccinated if they are entering buildings).

If you have a visitor you would like to bring to the Dining Hall or Roz’s, please have them fill out the visitor form.

COVID-19 Vaccine Program and Resources

In consideration of the ongoing health and safety of our entire campus community, Bennington College has determined that all students, faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (fully vaccinated means boosted). Exemptions will be allowed for medical and religious reasons. Bennington College requires all new hires to provide the College with proof of (full) vaccination on/before their first day of employment. The College complies with law relative to requests for vaccine exemptions but individuals must request an exemption and receive approval prior to their first day of employment.

The decision to mandate vaccines for all employees was reached after careful consideration of global health research; expert advice; Bennington’s vaccine requirement for students; concerns we have heard from employees who live with people who are at higher risk; decisions by other higher ed institutions; and the spread of the variants. Most importantly, we feel that this decision supports our community as a whole.

Proof of COVID vaccination must be uploaded to ADP as soon as available.

Bennington College requires employees to get a COVID booster within 30 days of their eligibility date. Please upload proof of booster vaccination to ADP as soon as available.

For those who have not yet been fully vaccinated, we offer the following Vaccine Resources. The vaccine protects individuals from illness (particularly serious illness and death), but it is not known for sure if individuals can give the virus to someone else. Refer to the Vermont Department of Health guidance for additional information.

If your residence is in:

COVID-19 Vaccine Resources

Vermont

General Information and Eligibility 

New York

General Information and Eligibility 

Massachusetts

General Information and Eligibility 

How to update your vaccine status in ADP

Employees were required to upload proof of vaccination to ADP by August 20, 2021, unless they have an approved exemption from the College. If you need assistance with uploading the documentation, please contact hroffice@bennington.edu.

To request a vaccine exemption

An employee may request an exemption due to medical or religious reasons. An exemption request form must be completed and submitted to Human Resources. Requests for medical exemptions will be handled under the College’s workplace accommodation process and reviewed by Human Resources. Exemption requests due to religious reasons will be reviewed by a committee consisting of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion/College Diversity Officer, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and the Director of Human Resources. Anyone who receives an exemption will also be required to wear masks at all times.

Potential Exposure to COVID/Close Contact

Per CDC guidelines, people who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms.

CDC guidelines indicate that unvaccinated individuals should quarantine if they have been in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a total of 15 minutes or more) with someone who has COVID-19. Employees who are unvaccinated and who have been in contact with any individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (or who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19) should immediately contact their supervisor and Human Resources. The employee will be required to remain off campus until further notice. The employee will be permitted to return to campus once they have been cleared by their health care provider and approved to return to campus by Human Resources.

Close Contacts and COVID Testing

Who is a Close Contact?

Close contact means being within 6 feet, for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, of someone with COVID-19 during their infectious period. 

 

If a close contact has had a booster or two shots in the last 6 months, they do not need to quarantine.  If a close contact is not vaccinated or not boosted and completed their two shots more than 6 months ago, they will need to quarantine.  

Close Contact Guidance VT DOH - Close Contact Handout

If deemed a close contact, follow the guidelines based on your vaccination status on file with Bennington College.

Follow the Vermont Department of Health Decision Tree,  Vermont Department of Health Close Contacts Guidance Close Contact Handout

 

Employees may come to campus to receive a PCR test if asymptomatic,, but must immediately leave campus thereafter. The employee may return to work once a negative PCR test result is received (by Human Resources who will clear you to return to work).

Protocol for close contacts living with a COVID positive household member (and unable to isolate from the positive household member)

The positive family member’s COVID situation must resolve before the employee can resolve their own close contact case. Once the family member is cleared, the employee should follow the guidance noted above for close contacts.

Where to get a COVID test? 

Free testing sites

Employees can obtain a free COVID test in our local area. Register through the Vermont Department of Health (VT DoH) Portal: https://vermont.force.com/events/s/selfregistration

On-Campus COVID Testing 

Spring Term (beginning February 12, 2022)

Testing will be Mondays through Thursdays, 8:00 am - 3:00 pm (no lunch break) in Commons Atrium (third floor). 

Guests/Visitors on Campus

Visitors to Campus: Indoor Spaces

  • To enter into a building, visitors need to be vaccinated and to fill out the visitor form—ideally at least 24 hours before they arrive on campus.
  • New policy: Visitors who have not filled out the form should be prepared to show their vaccination card before entering any campus buildings
  • New policy: Visit organizers (coordinators, faculty members, etc.) should plan staffing for events that includes confirmation at the door that all visitors are fully vaccinated (i.e., by confirming they have filled out the form, or by seeing their vaccination card at the door). If organizers do not feel like they have staff to manage this surveillance, they are encouraged to hold events open in person to just students, faculty, and staff and virtually to other community members.

Visitors to Campus: Outdoor Spaces

  • Members of the local community are currently allowed in public outdoor spaces on Bennington College’s campus, including walking trails.
  • All visitors should wear a mask and allow social distancing at all times while on campus.

Is the college anticipating allowing off-campus guests to give lectures and readings?

We are following state guidelines for travel, which currently permit travel to Vermont and the hosting of events.

We ask that all visitors to campus be vaccinated, and those arranging the logistics of the visit will share this policy and ask visitors to complete this form to affirm their status. Visitors who have not been vaccinated must be masked, physically distanced, and may not enter campus buildings. 

Should on-campus events be live-streamed or remotely accessible for students or faculty who are off-campus? 

If the event is part of a course requirement, you must make it remotely accessible. If not, we still strongly encourage live streaming for the ongoing community engagement of people who are remote.

Will guests again be permitted to stay overnight on campus and use our dining facilities?

Overnight stays are possible but dining on campus is not currently allowed because of the high risk to students.

What to do if you're sick

  • Please be on the lookout for symptoms of COVID.
  • If staff develop symptoms, please contact your supervisor and refrain from coming to campus until cleared by both your healthcare provider and Human Resources. Under some circumstances, a note from a health care provider may be required to return to work.
  • If faculty develop symptoms, first contact Meredith Meurs, who will guide you through the initial steps before connecting you with Human Resources. Because you should not come to campus if you’re symptomatic, you should shift any in-person instruction to remote, or reschedule your in-person classes until cleared by both your healthcare provider and Human Resources. 
  • Employees shall not report to, or be allowed to remain at, work if sick or symptomatic (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, congestion or runny nose, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea).
  • No symptomatic or COVID-19 positive employee is allowed on site and any unvaccinated employee who has contact with a worker or any other person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is required to quarantine for 14 days.  
  • If an employee becomes ill while working, the employee should stop working and move to an empty space/room (isolate). The employee should contact a supervisor or Human Resources immediately and should refrain from engaging in person with others. The College will assist the employee with getting off campus/home with care in the safest possible manner. The employee should not return to campus until cleared to work, Information on persons with whom the employee had contact during the time the employee experienced symptoms and 2 days prior to symptoms should be compiled. Others at the facility with close contact within 6 feet during this time would be considered exposed.

Support and Resources

  • Support resources are available for faculty and staff. If you have questions or are feeling overwhelmed and concerned, we encourage you to contact Human Resources for additional guidance and information. 
  • It is important to take care of your health and well being, especially during times of stress and uncertainty. The Employee Assistance Program is designed to assist all employees and their families who need support for a range of personal and professional concerns. Additionally, there are local and national resources available. If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs emotional support, help is available 24/7. Call your local mental health crisis line, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and/or text VT to 741741 to talk with someone at the Crisis Text Line. Get self-help tips and connect to mental health services at COVID Support VT and also review ways for coping with stress.
 
Workplace Accommodation
If an employee has a serious health condition (underlying health condition), the employee may request a workplace accommodation. An employee may request to work from home or request another accommodation by contacting Human Resources. We have a confidential process for managing these requests. All personal health information will be considered confidential and will be released only in accordance with the requirements of the ADA and the VFEPA.
 

Sick Time Policy

To encourage employees to stay at home when sick, the College has temporarily altered its staff sick time policies and has introduced the following measures to ensure, where possible, that employees will continue to be paid while out of work for COVID-related illnesses.

Bennington College has implemented a new leave policy to assist staff members who need time away from work for qualified reasons related to COVID-19. The policy is effective for the period of January 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022. All benefits-eligible union and non-union staff are immediately eligible. Please contact your supervisor or Human Resources if you have questions about this new policy.

A staff employee is entitled to take COVID Sick Leave if the employee is unable to work, including unable to work remotely, because the employee:

  • is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis; has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  • has tested positive for COVID-19 and is required to self-isolate or quarantine;
  • is considered a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual and is required by Vermont State protocol to isolate;
  • is caring for an immediate family member who is experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms and/or who is subject to a quarantine or isolation;
  • or is caring for a dependent child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons

Paid Leave Entitlements and how to request COVID sick leave
A full-time eligible employee is entitled to up to five days (maximum of 40 hours) of COVID Sick Leave for qualifying reasons. A part-time eligible employee is entitled to pro-rata COVID Sick Leave (based on the employee’s full-time equivalent status) for qualifying reasons. Where applicable, leave time taken shall be counted as part of the overall allotment of Family Medical Leave (FMLA) time available to each employee.

COVID Sick Leave time can be requested through ADP (in the same manner as requesting other paid time off).

As needed, employees will be allowed to maintain a negative sick time balance and/or the use of accrued vacation time to cover sick absences.

Staff should continue to report their absences through ADP; please ensure absences are submitted as soon as possible. Any employee who is concerned about financial hardship should contact Human Resources.

Benefits Information

  • Trustmark and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
  • Trustmark had indicated that individuals will have access to benefits for COVID-19 testing, if needed, at no cost. Additionally, prior authorization and medical management requirements will be waived for COVID-19 testing.
  • All telemedicine copays and prior authorization requirements will be waived for visits relating to COVID-19 testing.
  • Trustmark indicates that COVID-19 testing must be available to you at no cost whether the provider doing the testing is in-network or out-of-network.

Travel Procedures and Guidance

College-Related and Personal Travel

Faculty and staff who travel (both domestically or internationally) for College-sponsored business must observe all CDC health and safety guidance. Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. 

Additionally, when traveling, to reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public and/or in larger private groups if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

We recommend that you adhere to the CDC guidance on travel recommendations domestically and internationally, but travel is not restricted.

What are the testing guidelines for faculty or staff who commute? 

If faculty and staff are traveling or commuting, they can bring their test with them or they can be tested on campus. (Or both, if they would prefer.) For tests done off campus, a PCR test is preferred, ideally within 72 hours of arrival. Please send results to Health Services. 

Coverage for at-home/over-the-counter COVID antigen tests

Effective in January, 2022, all health plans were mandated to begin covering COVID-19 at-home FDA EUA-approved COVID-19 over the counter antigen test kits. The following information from Trustmark is intended to provide you with information about coverage and the reimbursement process for at-home COVID tests that you purchase.

While both our Trustmark medical and OptumRx prescription drug plans will offer coverage for at-home COVID test kits, we remind employees that the federal government is also offering employees 4 free at-home Covid tests (per address). Order here to request your free tests.

Note that at-home COVID tests purchased using a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) are not reimbursable through this process.

What’s covered?
At-home testing kits will be covered up to 8 tests per member, per month, and will be reimbursed up to the $12 limit per test.

Reimbursement for a test purchased at a non-pharmacy location (i.e., Amazon)
Tests can be reimbursed through your medical plan by paying out of pocket for the test and submitting a manual claim on the Trustmark portal, here are the instructions.

Coverage for a test purchased at a pharmacy (including at a pharmacy within a store)
Tests can also be purchased through your pharmacy plan, OptumRx. If you purchase a test at the pharmacy you must purchase it at the pharmacy counter. The employee will be responsible for any costs that exceed the Federal reimbursement level.

Please contact benefits@bennington.edu if you have questions.

 

What do I need to know about COVID-19 testing and where can I get tested?

As needed, COVID-19 testing remains available in Vermont. Please refer to the resources offered by the state. If you need assistance, please contact Human Resources