Washington State University leaders on Wednesday announced changes to grading meant to alleviate some of the pressures of COVID-19, and also discussed student move-in and testing strategies to be deployed in the spring.

Toward the start of a virtual town hall hosted by WSU leaders, Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton said the school has created a “no record COVID” grade category, or NRC, that can take the place of a low letter grade. She said part of the purpose of the move was to allow students who struggled with remote learning some amount of leniency. An NRC grade would not be considered in calculations of academic progress that affect financial aid and other services.

“The way it works is that faculty assign letter grades as usual and then, students, once they receive their final grades, they can elect to change a C minus or below ... to NRC grades,” Chilton said. “Students can do this for fall 2020, and we’re also going to do it for the full academic year — so spring 2021 as well.”

Chilton said some programs, like professional health sciences, are not able to use NRC grades because of accreditation issues. She noted in some cases, a low C may still be preferable to receiving no credit and advised students to discuss the option with their academic advisors before making a final decision.

Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Campus Life Jill Creighton said move-in procedures for the Jan. 19 start to the spring semester have been augmented to allow for social distancing. While instruction will still be delivered largely at a distance, the school said last month it expects as many as 3,000 students to move into on-campus housing. Creighton said WSU will roll out socially distant move-in practices, as well as arrival testing for those staying in university-owned housing or who expect to use university facilities for approved in-person classes or other activities.

Creighton said if they haven’t already, students must first sign up for an hour-long time slot to move in. She stressed that this does not mean the student has an hour to move in, but it is the time they will be expected to check in. Move in procedures will be largely conducted in the rotunda of the Beasley Coliseum to allow for social distancing she said.

Students will pick up their photo ID, receive an arrival test and then be given keys to their room, Creighton said. She said they will be limited to two guests who may help them move in and students and their guests must wear masks at all times and fill out an attestation form stating they have not been exposed to or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

“We are retaining our single occupancy model for this coming semester. So, no student will have a physical roommate,” Creighton said. “We’ve also limited the number of students per physical bathroom to be an average ratio of about four students to two bathrooms.”

Creighton said mandatory arrival testing will be conducted at the Beasley Coliseum from Jan. 4 through Jan. 22, excluding Jan. 13. She said another testing location, targeting students involved in Greek organizations, will be offered at an address on the Adams Mall that was previously home to Stubblefields Bar and Grill. She said those who plan to attend approved in-person classes or wish to use campus facilities like the recreation center, must also receive an arrival test.

“WSU will be covering the cost of arrival testing for WSU Pullman students, you will receive proof that you’ve completed your test on your attestation screen that you already complete to access campus services,” she said. “All students living in residence halls, as I mentioned, must receive that COVID-19 arrival test, and all students living in WSU owned apartments.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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