Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Dear Albion Parents and Families,
The semester is in full swing at Albion, and it is a joy to have students back on campus.
During the fall semester, we heard lots of feedback about our new dining vendor, Metz Culinary. While much of it was positive, we recognize there are also many areas for improvement. Today, I am writing with information about student dining and wellness resources, along with a brief update on student testing.
As a residential community, we know how important eating together is. As of February 1, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is allowing indoor dining in Michigan in restaurants and dining venues with some restrictions. As a result, Albion College will be offering limited indoor dining opportunities to students in Lower Baldwin, Upper Baldwin and the KC Stack. Our staff at Metz are taking all necessary precautions to keep students safe, including wearing masks, lowering the capacity of dining halls, appropriately spacing tables, optimizing ventilation and regularly sanitizing all surfaces. Students will be expected to continue to comply with all health and safety protocols that have been put in place to support a successful dining experience.
For the time being, Read Between the Grinds, Briton Break and the Dow Smoothie Bar will continue to be available only for carryout. To give students more opportunities and choice, we are also working on opening a new dining venue in Baldwin with a limited menu (smoothies and power bowls only).
Based on MDHHS guidance on indoor seating and dining, all venues will be limited to one person per table. Our team at Metz has made several adjustments to indoor dining spaces to ensure that dining is safe and hygienic. Stanchions and signage have been installed to make these spaces safe and easy to navigate. Staff will be regularly sanitizing tables and have marked all seating six feet apart.
Just as we have been working hard to support indoor dining this semester, we have also been evaluating all of the feedback we received last semester to expand our menu options.
In Baldwin, we have a new bakery supplier who will source products from 21 local vendors, allowing us to expand our bakery offerings. In addition, artisanal stone-oven pizzas will be returning to the menu. To better accommodate our students’ diverse dietary needs, we have added 20+ new menu items, including vegetarian, vegan and Halal items. We are also looking forward to some exciting daily themed menus, including Taco Tuesday, Mac N’ Cheese Takeover, Pizza and Wing Night and Breakfast for Lunch!
To make Baldwin Hall easier and safer to navigate, we have added new, large digital menu boards that can be seen from a safe distance. In response to student, faculty and staff feedback, we have also switched to eco-friendly containers and utensils to decrease our impact on the environment.
We have added new convenience items to the Eat Shop menu to offer more variety in grab ‘n’ go options. We have also rearranged the Eat Shop to make the space easier and safer to navigate in light of COVID-19 restrictions.
For the spring semester, sushi will be back at Briton Break twice a week and breakfast sandwiches will be added to the menu at Read Between the Grinds.
You can view menus for all of our dining spaces on the Metz website. These will be updated weekly and offer filters for dietary restrictions to show what students can eat safely in real-time. The changes we have made this semester are a direct result of the feedback we received. As in the fall, signs are hung in dining venues with a QR code that students can scan to submit feedback, and we hope they will continue to provide input.
To ensure that we are keeping our dining spaces safe for our community, our staff at Metz has undertaken COVID-19 training in line with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They have also undertaken extensive allergen training. Throughout the semester, our dining staff will continue to undergo training to better serve all and keep ahead of industry trends and standards. They are working hard to keep students safe.
As with all of our employees, our dining staff are required to participate in daily health screenings and follow our testing protocols. Dining employees will have their temperature recorded daily. As we continue to strive for safe, indoor dining, we will remain responsive to MDHHS and CDC guidelines.
For spring 2021, we have a new system to streamline and improve the delivery of meals to students in isolation. Our facilities staff will be helping us to deliver food promptly, and we will be utilizing new thermal units to keep food hot during deliveries. Our isolation menu will be created from the Baldwin menu to ensure that students in isolation or quarantine will not miss out on new and fun menu items.
We are excited to share that, in partnership with TimelyMD, Albion College will launch a new telehealth program for students this spring. As you know, we are actively working to prioritize and better support student wellness. This new service will provide access to 24/7 medical and mental telehealth care from anywhere in the United States. The service will be free of charge, with no insurance necessary. More information, including how to register and use the service, will be shared with students later this week. In addition, Counseling Services remains available to support student wellness needs on campus.
Our third round of student testing took place last week, on January 28 and 29. We will be sharing more information about upcoming testing schedules with students in the coming days. This spring, we are using Abbott BinaxNOW tests to administer regular rapid testing of students, faculty and staff. Abbott’s COVID-19 app, NAVICA, pairs with the rapid antigen test to deliver results quickly and safely to individuals. All students, faculty and staff have been asked to download NAVICA from the App Store or Google Play at no charge. We have a process in place for students, faculty and staff who do not have access to a Smartphone.
We will be shifting away from using the Aura app for health monitoring and testing this spring. Instead, we have a new Daily Health Assessment form that all students, faculty and staff have been instructed to fill out every day by noon. Our COVID-19 team will receive alerts and reach out to symptomatic individuals if testing is required. This information will only be shared with our COVID-19 team and used for the management of COVID-19 on campus.
As in the fall, Albion will continue to report testing data on our website. COVID-19 updates will be added to our Together Safely site daily, Monday through Friday, as current numbers of active cases change. Our COVID-19 dashboard will be updated at the same time.
As always, copies of the parent and family newsletter will be added to our website and information regarding our COVID-19 policies and protocols for spring 2021 will be added to Together Safely as it is released.
Thank you for your continued support of our students and our whole Albion community.
Dr. Mathew Johnson
President, Albion College