FAQ for Staff and Faculty

Last updated on September 16, 2021 at 5:14 pm EDT.

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

Vaccinated community members should wear masks when they are indoors and when they are outdoors in groups. 

Community members with an exemption or who are not yet fully vaccinated should wear a mask at all times, indoors and outdoors.

This decision has been made in response to the change in risk due to the increased number of visitors on campus for arrival, the Delta variant, and the possibility of breakthrough infections. While vaccinations are an important tool in our ability to protect ourselves and make infections less severe, masking will be another layer of defense. We will assess the long-term plan after arrival and based on guidance from the CDC and Vermont Department of Health.

What happen if I test positive?

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

As a reminder, faculty 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, HR, and their healthcare provider.

We will follow CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines regarding quarantine. The Health Department will contact anyone who is considered a close contact and provide guidance.

Will faculty and staff be able to access the Dining Hall? 

Not at this time. We will keep the Dining Hall reserved for student use only for at least a few more weeks. This is due largely to staffing constraints in Dining, but it also allows us to operate with an abundance of caution with regard to COVID protocol. Food is available for purchase in the campus Bookstore.

Will there be testing during the term? 

 We did fall “arrival” testing for our entire campus community.  Any faculty or staff who have approved medical or religious exemptions from the vaccination mandate should plan to do weekly testing. Optional testing for vaccinated faculty and staff throughout the term is also available in the Student Center, Mondays through Thursdays, 9:00 am-3:00 pm.

As a reminder, please do not come on campus if you’re symptomatic or have a known exposure to COVID. On-campus testing is not designed to diagnose COVID-19 in symptomatic people, and is not a substitute for evaluation and diagnosis by a licensed health care provider.

Will there be required symptom tracking?

Yes. Here are the symptom tracking instructions: 

  • All faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status, should begin reporting symptoms daily in CoVerified. To report symptoms, press the “+” button in the bottom center of the CoVerified homepage, then click “report symptoms.”
  • Any students with vaccine exemptions or who are not yet fully vaccinated should begin reporting symptoms daily in CoVerified.
  • Any students who develop symptoms should report them immediately in CoVerified or by emailing or calling Health Services.
  • As a reminder, staff who may 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. Staff will be directed to contact their healthcare provider. Faculty should self-isolate, leave campus, and contact the Dean’s Office, HR, and their healthcare provider.

COVID-19 Vaccine Program and Resources

Following the College’s decision to require COVID-19 vaccines for students and in consideration of the ongoing health and safety of our entire campus community, Bennington College has determined that all faculty and staff were required to have received their COVID-19 vaccinations by Friday, August 20, 2021. Employees getting Pfizer or Moderna should have received both shots by August 20, 2021, but everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Exemptions will be allowed for medical and religious reasons. 

The decision to mandate vaccines for all employees was reached after careful consideration of Federal health research; 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.

Employees were required to upload proof of vaccination to ADP by August 20, 2021. An employee may request an exemption due to medical or religious reasons. An exemption request form must have been completed and submitted to Human Resources by July 30, 2021.

For those who have not yet been vaccinated, we offer the following Vaccine Resources

All individuals over the age of 12 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The vaccine protects individuals from illness, but it is not known for sure if individuals can give the virus to someone else. Some recent studies suggest that a person who is vaccinated is less likely to infect other people with the COVID-19 virus.

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. Once documents are confirmed in ADP by Human Resources, employees may choose to stop wearing a mask. 

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 by July 30, 2021. 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 the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 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.

**The CDC has recently added that vaccinated people in areas of substantial to high disease activity (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view) who have close contact should be tested 3-5 days later.**

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.

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 i- 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 this fall?

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.

  • 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.

Will the College be using CoVerified? 

Yes. The College will be using CoVerified, a COVID-19 Campus Management Platform, as we did last year for sharing test results and symptom tracking, with a few changes:

  • All members of the community will be able to access their test results using CoVerified. The app will alert you when your test results are returned, usually within 48 hours.
  • All faculty and staff should do daily reporting of symptoms regardless of vaccination status. 
  • People who are not-yet-fully-vaccinated or who have exemptions will need to schedule their tests via CoVerified weekly. All community members may schedule tests at any time, should they wish to do so.

Please note: Staff who may 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. Staff will be directed to contact their healthcare provider. Faculty should self-isolate, leave campus, and contact the Dean’s Office, HR, and their healthcare provider.

How can I get started (or restarted) with CoVerified? 


CoVerified is secure and confidential, and does not track users location or movement. Only Health Services, Human Resources, and the Dean’s Office will have access to this information.

If you have questions, staff should feel free to reach out to Human Resources, and faculty to the Dean's Office.

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 home when sick, the College has temporarily altered its sick time policies (in most cases) to continue to be paid while out of work. 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. Employees who are absent due to symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 will be required to present a medical clearance note from a doctor prior to returning. Any employee who is concerned about financial hardship should contact Human Resources.

Covid Paid Sick Time and Covid Leave

On April 1, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was introduced by the Department of Labor. The Act required certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick time and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The FFCRA provisions were effective from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Although the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provisions have expired under the law as of December 31, 2020, Bennington College has decided to continue to offer an equivalent benefit to employees through the end of the current academic year, June 30, 2021. This new benefit is entitled COVID Paid Sick Time and COVID Leave. Please find more information here.

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.
  • Trustmark indicates that if you are charged for COVID-19 testing, including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance, you will be reimbursed and/or your deductibles adjusted by your health benefit plan. If you have Teladoc (telemedicine) and were charged a consult fee for a telehealth visit that resulted in COVID-19 testing, you will be reimbursed via a check sent to your home for the amount of the consult fee. Reimbursement for such consult fees applies to COVID-19 telemedicine visits occurring between March 18, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Trustmark will provide updates if there are changes to this end date.

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.

The CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s recommendations for unvaccinated people traveling internationally or domestically. Anyone who is unvaccinated and traveling needs to have a negative test to return to work. 

The College has suspended travel to any area as determined by the US Department of State to be at a Level 3 or above for employees who are vaccinated and at a Level 2 or above for employees who are unvaccinated.  

Please note that these guidelines are subject to change at a moment’s notice due to the fluid nature of the pandemic.

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. 

Commitment of Shared Responsibility Compliance

Our goal is to keep all members of the community safe and healthy. In the same way we are asking all members of the community to share cleaning responsibilities because it would be impossible for Buildings and Grounds to clean every surface after every time it is touched, we are asking all members of the community to help in the upholding of the Commitment. 

Direct dialogue between members of the community at the time of the incident will almost always be the most effective way to address a concern. We also understand that there may be situations, due to power differentials or other dynamics, that could cause someone to feel unable to engage in direct dialogue. In situations where direct dialogue was not possible, community members can share concerns through this form.

We anticipate that most infractions will not be willful, but rather a lapse into older pre-pandemic patterns of behavior. In these cases, which we anticipate will be the vast majority, the issue will be addressed in a way that focuses on education and restorative practices. 

If there is a major violation of Commitment by the staff, students, or faculty, the College is required to act in accordance with the Mandatory Guidance for Residential Campus Learning, issued by the State of Vermont on July 3, 2020. The mechanism by which major infractions will be addressed will be as follows: faculty violations will be addressed by the Acting Provost; staff violations will be addressed by Human Resources; and student violations will be reviewed by the CSR Violations Panel, which is composed of students, faculty, and staff. 

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