NWC's Coronavirus Response:
Fall 2020 FAQs

If you have a question that isn’t addressed below, send your question to ResponseTeam@nwciowa.edu, and we will get you an answer.

Information About


Spring/summer 2020 FAQs



Q: What are you doing to prepare for the fall with COVID?

A: The Pandemic Response Team (PRT) has been meeting weekly since the first week in March. More than 30 faculty and staff serve on this committee with representation from across campus. In addition, six PRT subcommittees are planning and implementing measures to ensure a safe environment for students’ return. Those subcommittees are:

  1. Campus Screening, Testing, Contact Tracing and Education
  2. On-Campus Events (orientation, chapel, conferences, theatre, music, prospective student visits)
  3. Off-Campus Events (internships, student teaching, and student travel)
  4. Classroom Scheduling and Safety within the Classroom
  5. Student Housing, Food Service and Infection Control
  6. Athletic Pandemic Recovery Team (events, practices, games, facilities, etc.)

Q: Is Orange City’s hospital equipped and ready?

A: Though  we are in a small community, we are blessed with an outstanding hospital and health services. The Orange City Area Health Services CEO, Marty Guthmiller, has provided daily updates on COVID-19 cases in the area. The communication has been outstanding. We also have strong relationships with larger hospitals in Sioux City and Sioux Falls.

Q: Will you be screening students for COVID-19/virus exposure before they move to campus?

A: Yes, we have developed a survey tool that will be emailed to students a little over two weeks in advance of their planned arrival on campus. It will be very important to complete that pre-arrival screening. Once students are on campus, we may ask them to do regular self-screenings (e.g. temperature check and exposure notification) that can be reported via an easy-to-use app.

Q: Will students be required to self-quarantine for 14 days before attending classes in the fall?

A: Domestic students are not required to self-isolate before arriving on campus (see the next Q/A for international student information). All students will be required to complete a health screening survey two weeks prior to returning to campus. If a student’s response indicates a COVID-19 risk, that student will be contacted by a member of Northwestern’s wellness center staff and given instructions regarding next steps.

Q: Will international students be required to self-quarantine?

A: We are adhering to guidelines from our public health officials. It’s possible that we will ask international students to come early in order to isolate before classes start. If that does happen, we will ensure they have everything they need to be healthy and comfortable, including delivered meals. Dr. Kevin McMahan will be in contact with international students.

Q: What will happen if a student tests positive for COVID-19?

A: We have designated several apartments and wings to comfortably isolate students who test positive for COVID-19. Students who are in isolation will be able to continue their coursework online and will have meals brought to them. Staff in our wellness and residence life departments will ensure every NWC student who is isolated is well cared for and receives the medical, emotional and spiritual support they need.

Q: Will Northwestern do contact tracing if a student tests positive for COVID-19?

A: We will work with our region’s public health provider, Community Health Partners, and they will assist with contact tracing if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed on campus.

Q: Will students have to wear masks?

A: Yes. Every student should bring several cloth masks to campus and be prepared to wear them as outlined by the guidelines below (which may change by August):

Students do NOT need to wear a mask:

  • In their residence hall (which is their "home").
  • With members of their residence hall (who are their “family”).
  • When they are able to adequately physical distance.

Students DO need to wear a mask:

  • In class, regardless of physical distancing feasibility, unless given express permission by the professor to remove the mask.
  • In campus public spaces where they are not able to physical distance.
  • In hallways, reception areas, waiting lines or other high-traffic areas, when physical distancing is not feasible.
  • Whenever someone asks them to wear one for the safety of another who is vulnerable to COVID-19 (including in their residence hall).

Q: If a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, will students be required to have one?

A: Most likely. We already require certain vaccines for students who attend Northwestern. If students have medical reasons for not having vaccines, there is a process for exemptions.


Q: Will New Student Orientation go on as scheduled?

A: At this point, we are planning to welcome new students to campus on Aug 21. We will share details about the orientation schedule closer to the event so our activities accommodate the most up-to-date CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines. Students’ health is a priority, but so is a making a great transition to college. So even if the orientation program is altered to accommodate physical distancing, our O-Staff leaders will ensure students start making new friends, experiencing community, worshiping together and learning what it means to be a Raider!

Q: Will there be designated move-in times to allow for physical distancing?

A: Yes, we are in the process for planning what move-in will look like for fall student-athletes who arrive on Aug. 14 and new students on Aug. 21. We are planning to stagger move-in times to enable physical distancing in residence hall corridors. Details will be coming.

Q: Will there be any changes in residence life to ensure students remain as healthy as possible?

A: We are working closely with the Pandemic Response Team to ensure that students’ living environments are clean and safe. We are increasing cleaning schedules for both bathrooms and other residence hall common areas to include more regular cleanings seven days a week. Residence halls are students’ homes, so physical distancing guidelines will be relaxed in the residence halls. However, we will be consulting public health guidelines to determine whether we will restrict lounge capacities or limit off-campus visitors to residence halls.

Q: If regulations dictate single rooms, can Northwestern accommodate that?

A: We are not able to accommodate single-room occupancy, which will be the case with most colleges across the country. In addition, students will be in the dining hall and other public spaces together, so little is gained by limiting rooms to single-occupancy.

Q: How can you ensure that community bathrooms will be clean and disinfected?

A: Staff in our residence life and maintenance departments are making plans to ensure adequate staffing so bathrooms and community spaces cleaned and disinfected regularly, including on weekends.

Q: Challenges caused by the pandemic are stressing students academically and emotionally. Will your school therapists be able to meet everyone’s needs?

A: Yes. We will have four therapists on staff this fall and increased hours at no additional cost to provide confidential mental health care.

Q: In what ways will food service be different?

A: Creative Dining Services, our food service provider, has published a “playbook” that guides its staff at all 70 CDS locations across the country. Students will still get delicious, nutritious food and a top-notch dining experience. But they can expect some changes, such as:

  • Greater physical distancing in the cafeteria with staggered lunch and dinner periods
  • The removal of self-serve stations, such as the salad bar, ice cream machine, silverware dispensers, etc.; students’ favorite foods will still be available, but they will be served by campus dining staff
  • Continual sanitation of all service area and dining surfaces
  • Contactless food delivery for students in isolation

Q: What will chapel be like?

A: Our campus ministry staff will continue to provide opportunities for students to grow spiritually. The Christian formation requirement will still be in place, and the weekly scheduled times for chapel worship will not change. However, students’ health will also be a priority as we consider several options for chapel worship, including in-person chapel with physical distancing, multi-site participation and small group participation. Our decision, which will be finalized closer to the start of the semester, will also be informed by the experiences of local churches as they resume corporate worship.

Q: What will student activities and other large-group events look like on campus?

A: The Pandemic Response Team has developed an event risk assessment tool to enable those hosting events this summer and fall to evaluate the risk and reward for each event. President’s Cabinet members then review each event’s “score” and determine if the event can continue and/or if modifications are necessary.

Q: Will students be able to travel home for breaks?

A: Yes, our academic calendar has not changed for the fall semester.

Q: How will students’ work-study jobs be affected?

A: Students will still have work-study responsibilities across campus, including cleaning the bathrooms and working in the cafeteria, library, RSC and campus offices.


Q: How are you planning to deliver classes this fall?

A: In general, courses will be offered as originally designed, emphasizing face-to-face instruction on campus. Because we do not know what surprises the fall may bring, NWC faculty are working this summer to design all courses for resilience in the face of interruption.

As a baseline, all course assignments and exams will be accessible through the college’s electronic learning system, Blackboard, and will be structured in a consistent format. Instructors will use the Blackboard tool to grade all assignments. These changes will enhance consistency between courses, improve student access to course materials and enable students to see “real-time” grades for their submitted work.

To further prepare for interruption, by the start of the fall semester, all classrooms will be technologically equipped to capture video and audio recordings of class activities (lecture, discussion, etc.). If a student should need to isolate—or should some other directive be received from Iowa’s governor—professors will be equipped to proceed as normally as conditions allow. Flexible courses will also permit at-risk students and faculty to continue in the academic community.

To create additional flexibility, Northwestern will allow some courses to be offered in a fully online or in a “hybrid” (some online, some face-to-face) format. In general, we will not recommend these courses to freshmen, but some upperclassmen may utilize those alternative formats.

Q: Is the fall calendar different?

A: Northwestern’s fall semester calendar will proceed as originally posted with all scheduled breaks and holidays. The first day of class will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, with move-in for new and returning students occurring over the weekend immediately preceding.

Q: What are you doing to make classrooms safe?

A: To support the health of our students and our community, instruction this fall will take place in spaces where students can maintain physical distance from each other and the professor. Some additional physical barriers—such as plexiglass shields—may also be in place. Our goal is to balance responsible behaviors that keep everyone healthy (especially vulnerable campus community members) with our very real need to engage students in learning. We will also need to share in the responsibility for keeping the spaces we use clean—to “clean up after ourselves,” as it were.

Q: What technology upgrades have been made?

A: We are upgrading our servers and disaster recovery system this summer and have identified approximately 100 loaner laptops for students and faculty who may need to study or teach remotely. Classrooms will be equipped with wireless microphones and recording cameras to support teaching and learning. Technology in the chapel will be upgraded to improve the livestream experience for students.

Q: What about performance classes? Music concerts? Plays?

A: The music and theatre departments are planning for modified ensemble and performance arrangements for the fall term as they await further guidance from their professional organizations. At this time, we expect that musical ensembles and theatre rehearsals will occur, but with differences. Musical ensembles will rehearse in larger spaces to create greater distance between musicians. The theatre program is awaiting guidance from professional organizations, but it’s likely those involved in shows will be asked to follow procedures that may include testing and regular health screening. Audience sizes at performances will likely be limited.

Q: What about the library?

A: The library is open and the staff has developed practices to ensure the safety of our library staff and students.

Q: Will students still be able to study off-campus or abroad?

A: We will make a decision by July 1 about our international study abroad offerings and by July 15 for our domestic off-campus programs. We are committed to providing great off-campus experiences in future semesters if we are unable to run our normal programs this fall.


Q: What will athletics look like in 2020–21?

A: The GPAC has established that student-athletes may begin practice (as defined by the NAIA) no earlier than Saturday, Aug. 15. Competition (both conference and non-conference) may begin no earlier than Sept. 5 for volleyball, soccer, cross country, tennis, baseball and softball. Football competition will start no earlier than Sept. 12. These dates will allow adequate time for training and conditioning prior to regular season competition. Additionally, the following fall sports seasons will be reduced slightly:

  • Football: 9 games (GPAC schedule)
  • Cross Country: 7 meets (GPAC Cross Country Championship in November)
  • Men's & Women's Soccer: 14 games (GPAC Tournament in November)
  • Women's Volleyball: 22 dates (GPAC Tournament in November)
  • Golf, tennis, baseball and softball—which compete in both the fall and spring semesters—will remain within already established parameters as defined by the NAIA (including conducting the GPAC Fall Championships for golf in late September and early October)

From GPAC Commissioner Corey Westra: “The GPAC is committed to the best possible experience for our student-athletes, and we will continue to develop contingency plans for the upcoming academic year, including planning for the winter and spring seasons as necessary. In all our planning the health and safety of our student-athletes will remain at the forefront of all our decisions as a league.”

Q: Will fans be able to attend athletic events?

A: The GPAC’s Return to Play Task Force will continue to meet over the summer to set further policies for the league, including (but not limited to) game operation protocols, medical aspects and fan attendance at GPAC contests.