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Spring Quarter Plan Refresh and Process

The Return to Campus Plan Refresh and Process established an organized structure in the fall and winter quarters that Northwestern used to ensure alignment of our work, workforce, and workplace in our Return to Campus plans. The process identifies key foundational elements to be addressed locally within each unit and establishes an approval workflow centrally aligning these plans with campus planning and operations.

We are asking schools/unit to review their plans and make necessary adjustments to support our community, and accommodate faculty and staff who are willing and eager to be on campus, through June 20, 2021. Units are asked to submit their Spring Quarter Plans to the Return to Campus Workgroup by March 22, 2021 only if they are significantly different from their submitted Winter 2021 Return to Campus Plans. 

Spring Quarter Planning Assumptions

Important Spring Term Dates for Students

Spring Break for students is scheduled from Saturday, March 20 to Monday, March 29.  Student housing and dining halls will remain open during Spring Break and we anticipate more students remaining on-campus than in past years. Students will observe a Spring Wildcat Wellness period from Monday, March 29 to Wednesday, April 5 for all students living on campus or in the Evanston or Chicago areas.  In-person activities may occur for the first time Tuesday, April 6.  Faculty and staff are also expected to refrain from scheduling in-person activities during the wellness period except those that are essential or necessary to support students’ return and cannot be delivered remotely. As is true through the year, it is critical that our community continue to adhere to CDC guidelines and Northwestern policies. 

Policy on COVID-19 Alternative Work Arrangements

The Policy on COVID-19 Alternative Work Arrangements will be phased out after June 20 with an end-date between July 31 and September 3. Schools and units will determine the date on which the AWA will be sunset, based on their operational needs. Between June 20 and the policy end date, schools and units should provide reasonable flexibility to individuals, but ensure that business needs can be met. The qualifying criteria for an AWA will narrow after June 20, in alignment with improving public health conditions.

Employees who require the AWA beyond June 20 should speak with their managers about their needs. Existing AWA arrangements will not automatically extend beyond June 20.

The Office of Well-being is available to discuss flexible work arrangement.   

Schools/units are encouraged to:

  • Look for opportunities to increase faculty/staff presence on campus; on-campus presence in spring term should not be lower than in the Winter
  • Prioritize those faculty/staff whose presence is necessary, especially in student-serving areas, and those who are willing and eager to return to campus
  • Continue use staggered schedules, staff rotations and flexible hours to maintain staff presence on campus while managing density limitations

Occupancy Planning

The State of Illinois and City of Chicago’s guidelines continue to evolve in response to the pandemic.  Schools/units should assume the following when planning for Spring Quarter:
Evanston Chicago
Resources State of Illinois’ Restore Illinois Plan, Phase 4 City of Chicago, Phase IV and
Capacity Specifications
Office Spaces 50% density w/ 6’ physical distancing 50% density w/ 6’  physical distancing

Classrooms 6’ physical distancing; maximum 50 50% density w/ 6’ physical distancing; maximum 50
Meetings Please see Northwestern’s Expectations for Meeting and Events guidance.

COVID-19 Planning Leader

To assist with this process, each school/VP leadership office had identified a COVID-19 Leader to oversee department plans within their designated school/VP unit.

This person will:

  • Collect and oversee plans within each school or unit's areas of oversight,
  • Be responsible for aligning department and school plans with the COVID-19 guidelines and best practices,
  • Align and reconcile planned activities with their dean or vice president,
  • Submit plans to the COVID-19 Workgroup for review as necessary,
  • Coordinate Return to Campus communications within their school or unit, and
  • Ensure alignment with these plans during the quarter.

 Spring Quarter Plan Refresh Process

  • The COVID-19 Planning Leader works with the individual units to refresh their Spring Quarter Plans.
  • The COVID-19 Planning Leader confirms dean/VP approval and alignment with the Spring Quarter Planning tenets and COVID-19 Guidelines. 
  • The COVID-19 Leader submits the Return to Campus Plan Refresh Summary & Checklist to the COVID-19 Workgroup for each unit.
  • The Return to Campus Workgroup reviews plan for:
    • Alignment with Spring Quarter Planning tenets and COVID-19 Guidelines.
    • Functions/services remaining remote.
    • Functions/services occupying physical campus space to inform building operations, access, and security.
  • The Return to Campus Workgroup communicates acknowledgement of Spring Quarter Plans and any additional guidance for the units identified during the review process.

The COVID-19 Leader ensures plan compliance through the Spring quarter and communicates any variances to the Return to Campus Workgroup at