NWC's Coronavirus Response:
Fall 2020 FAQs

Summary of Northwestern's Pandemic Recovery Plan

If you have a question that isn’t addressed in the above PDFs, the July 27 livestream, or the FAQs below, send your question to ResponseTeam@nwciowa.edu and we will get you an answer.

Information About


Coronavirus communication

Responsible Raider pledge

Spring/summer 2020 FAQs




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: Are students screened regularly?

A: Yes, students complete a daily screening on the Raider Check app. The app uses time-stamped colored badges to confirm students have completed their screening, and it is checked prior to their use of the cafeteria and fitness center.  

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

A: We will urge students who live within 250 miles of campus to go home until they are free of the virus. They will be able to keep up with classes remotely. For those who live too far away or who have someone at home who is immunocompromised, we have designated several apartments and wings to comfortably isolate them.

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.

For more details on the instructions we provide students who test positive, see the handout

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

A: Northwestern does initial contact tracing for on-campus exposure. We work with our region’s public health provider, Community Health Partners, and they will assist with contact tracing off 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 (subject to change):

Mask wearing protects you and others, so cover up:

    • In classrooms
    • At chapel and other Christian formation events
    • In the cafeteria (and other eating places) until you're seated at your table
    • In indoor common spaces, including hallways, lobbies and lounges (e.g. DeWitt Learning Commons, Ramaker Center, Rowenhorst Student Center and Van Peursem Hall)
    • In residence halls
    • Wherever you see a MASK ZONE sign 
    • Whenever someone asks you to for the safety of another who is vulnerable to COVID-19 (including in your residence hall)

You do not need to wear a mask:

  • In your residence hall room.

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 you require students and employees to get the flu vaccine?

A: We are not requiring students and employees to get the flu vaccine, but we strongly encourage everyone to do so.

Q: What are you doing to protect the health and safety of Orange City area residents?

A: We urged students to limit their exposure to the Orange City community for the first few weeks. This included not attending local churches or large group events until after Labor Day. Students were encouraged to watch local church services online during that time.


Q: What should students bring to campus to help keep themselves and the rest of the community healthy?

A: Students should bring:

  • Several reusable cloth masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Thermometer
  • Fever reducer (Tylenol, Ibuprofen)  
  • Over-the-counter cold/flu medication
  • Adequate supply of prescription medications and hygiene items
  • Gatorade or electrolyte replacement packets
  • Disinfectant wipes/spray to clean dorm room
  • Medical insurance card

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

A: 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. There will be a limit of six people in a dorm room at one time and no more than 50% capacity in common areas. No visitors from off-campus will be allowed in the residence halls. Students will be allowed to visit fellow students in other residence halls but will need to wear masks.

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

A: Staff in our residence life and maintenance departments have made 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 with fewer tables and chairs in the cafeteria, along with extended serving times. Breakfast will be served from 7-10. Lunch will be served from 11-2. Dinner will be served from 4:30-7:30.
  • 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 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 spring calendar different?

A: Adjustments have been made to Northwestern’s spring calendar, including starting the semester later than usual (Jan. 11) to provide more time for faculty to prepare their courses for delivery under COVID. We have also shortened spring break by two days to one week (March 1-5) and shortened Easter break to one day (Good Friday, April 2) to  lessen the risks of community spread of the virus.

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. Desks will be 6 feet apart. We will be utilizing some larger spaces such as the Vogel Community Room, England Proscenium Theatre and the dance studio for classes with higher enrollments. Some Plexiglass shields will be in place; all classes will be equipped with recording technology. Desks and spaces will be sanitized between classes.

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 theatre and music performance classes? 

A: Musical ensembles will rehearse in larger spaces to create greater distance between musicians (the choir rehearsing in the band room, and the band rehearsing in Christ Chapel). During theatre production rehearsals, performers will wear masks when physical distancing isn't possible or doesn't fit the blocking. Production teams will wear masks during crew work.

Q: How will fine arts performances work? Will audiences be able to attend? 

A: Audience sizes at performances will be limited. Physical distancing and masks will be required.

The children's show, Jabberwocky, will be performed in the theatre to a reduced-size audience Nov. 19-21 and available via livestream. Instead of having children come to Northwestern for the show, the play will be performed in area schools by multiple small casts. As a puppet show, Jabberwocky will allow mask wearing by the puppet operators and easier physical distancing.

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:  Northwestern has canceled all college-sponsored international travel for the fall 2020 semester. 

  • Student participation in the  Chicago Semester for fall 2020 has been approved.
  • The study abroad experiences in London and Ireland for spring 2021 have been approved.
  • The Oman study abroad for spring 2021 has been canceled due to travel restrictions and COVID.

Q: At what point would Northwestern move to online learning?

A:  It is our intention and hope to offer on-site instruction all year long. But we will not do so if the risk to our students, faculty or staff is high. We have not established a specific “trigger point” when we would shift to online learning. We will be monitoring the number and severity of cases on campus and in the region, the amount of isolation rooms we have available, employees available to support those in quarantine and isolation, what other colleges in the area are doing, what our local public health officials are recommending, and various other factors.


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.”

Fall athletes will be tested for COVID-19 seven days in advance of their first competition. The NAIA announced on July 28 that the national championships for most fall sports--cross country, men's soccer, women's soccer, and women's volleyball--will be moved to spring 2021. 

Q: Will fans be able to attend athletic events?

A: Northwestern College athletics has worked with local health officials to develop game-day protocols for the fall 2020 season in the effort to mitigate risks associated with the spread of COVID-19.  These protocols also follow GPAC guidelines.

Red Raider fans are encouraged to read the protocols for opponent venues at away contests, as every stadium/gym/field has varying seating available. You can read the full Red Raider home event protocols here, including venue specific information.


  • Attendance will be limited to 50% capacity of our provided seating at all venues. 
  • Hand sanitizing/disinfecting wipe stations will be available to fans throughout the venue.
  • All fans are required to wear a mask and observe physical distancing while present in Northwestern facilities.
  • Family groups are asked to sit together and maintain physical distance between themselves and other fans.
  • NWC coaches, student-athletes and event staff have numerous daily and game-day procedures in place to help keep all Red Raiders safe.
  • Tailgating will not be permitted on campus.