LTS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

UPDATED: September 15, 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

PRESIDENT’S UPDATE ON COVID-19

Vision

To sustain pastors in ministry and education them in ways that will teach them the rhythms of pastoral and congregational life.

Mission

To prepare faithful leaders for the church of Jesus Christ and thus to strengthen the church’s participation in God’s mission for the world.

Strategic Imperatives

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Academic Excellence and Relevance
  • Sustainability of Pastors in Congregational Ministry
  • Financial Stability and Growth
  • Continuous Cultivation of a High-Quality Environment to Work, Study, and Grow

We join all people of faith in prayer for all who are affected by Covid-19. We pray for the safety and health of all health care workers, paid and unpaid caregivers, pastors and all who work in the service industry. LTS faculty and staff are holding our students and the entire LTS community in our prayers.  

As the conversation turns to “reopening” businesses, schools, parks and churches,  I am reminded that the impetus for the quarantine, healthy at home restrictions and shelter in place guidance was the overwhelming concern for the public’s health in light of the explicit danger of COVID-19.  This danger is still present and the corresponding realities of living and working in the midst of this public health crisis continues.  The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and prevention is the best method to combat the spread of the virus.  To combat the spread of the virus, provide a safe working environment for employees while continuing serving students, Lexington Theological Seminary will incorporate into our existing protocols the Healthy at Work practices regarding the use of personal protection equipment, the size of any single gathering of people in the workplace and temperature monitoring.  

 LTS healthy at work practices will include:

  • The Library will remain closed to the public.  Enrolled Students, Faculty and Staff will receive priority in filling any request.  Where possible, materials available through the DTL will be used for classes.
  • Employees should wear a mask in all public spaces.
  • Maintain social distancing behaviors; for your convenience space guides will be placed on the carpet of the 3rd floor and in the break room. 
  • For in house meetings of 3-5 people the 3rd floor conference room is available
  • For in house meetings of 5 or more people the 5th floor community space is available or one of the 3rd floor classrooms
  • We will take the temperature of all persons entering the work space. 
  • Anyone feeling sick or ill must shelter in place until examined by a doctor and until all symptoms are gone.
  • Sanitizing and cleaning the common work areas every 48 hours.
  • Persons testing positive for the coronavirus regardless of symptoms are asked to work from home.  
  • The Lexington Green Office Building management team is following an enhanced sanitation protocol that supports enhanced sanitation guidelines. 
  • STRONGLY Recommend employees take advantage of COVID-19 testing and vaccines as directed by their health professional

Remote Work Schedules

The country and the seminary continue to navigate the dramatic impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, the economic, social, spiritual, political, and personal impacts of the virus are known in the businesses that have closed their doors permanently and the loss of income for others, in the isolation felt by many and the mental health toll taken on others, in the polarization of basic public healthcare and in the loss of lives, friendships, and connections. Returning to some kind of normal activity, although very much desired, is still full of uncertainty. What we know today about keeping ourselves and others safe and healthy has been enriched but it is also very much a function of the basics – wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, stay home if sick or ill, clean exposed surfaces often, and, more recently, if available, take the vaccine.  In a recent survey of LTS onsite staff, we learned that 99% of the onsite population is vaccinated, employees desire more normal work patterns, that there is a desire to maintain a hybrid work life, and that concern remains about the ongoing mutations of the COVID-19 virus.   And, yet because of the surge in Covid-19 positive cases, the emergence of the Delta variant and a sizable population of unvaccinated people, getting back to normal activity is not within reach.  

Modified work schedules and work patterns are normative at LTS but in an environment in which electronic communication is the dominant form of communication, it’s important to establish new patterns of interaction and communication.  We will over communicate on the assumption that it can’t hurt to emphasize important information.   It is a good practice to return emails, phone calls or texts from colleagues and co-workers on the same day or within 24 hours. Try to think of this communication as you would if you were in the physical space and could walk down the hall and knock on someone’s door.  Of course, scheduling meetings and conferences calls remains an appropriate way to deal with issues that require substantive coordination and planning.   Employees are asked to coordinate with the Dean, VP of Advancement or CFO to select 2 days for onsite activity and professional connections.  In addition, teams that do not have established check-in practices should schedule a weekly or bi-weekly meeting to facilitate our mutual work.  These measures may be familiar to you as healthy at work practices and workplace protocols, but they bear repeating in the spirit of over communicating  

January Intensives

The dean and faculty in consultation with the president have decided to hold 2022 January Intensives online. This decision was made in light of the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, in Kentucky and out of deep concern for faculty, staff and students.  The letter from the Dean to students will read as follows:

 We know that so many of you want to come to campus. We had been planning since last June to bring you on campus and have been purchasing things like air filters to ensure your safety. However, in light of the surge spurred by the Delta variant and the recent news of a new variant on the horizon, the faculty and administrative staff met on September 9, 2021 and decided that there are still too many risks. There are risks in air travel. There are risks in exposing some of you who care for at-risk or immunocompromised loved ones who cannot be vaccinated. The physical capacity of our classrooms must limit how many of you can come. Frankly, the reasons for coming—worshipping together, dining together, visiting sites, and so forth—are severely hampered since those options are not necessarily available in Kentucky at this time.

Given these reasons, we have chosen to hold January Intensives fully online. We pray and ask that you join us in prayer that our country and the world will eventually see a future in which we can once again gather as a community. In January, I will communicate with you regarding events for June of 2022. I ask for your patience and forbearance. I realize that this brings much sadness and grief. As faculty and staff, we hold each of you in our prayers as you do the hard work of studying, pastoring, caring for families, friends, and communities.

 Notification of this decision will go to students and employees on Monday, September 13, 2021 through an email notice, and will be posted on the website no later than Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

The letter can be downloaded below:

 Key Points/Guiding Principles for Reentry

When the seminary is able to plan for reentry of the student body, the following Key Points/Guiding Principles will help in our decision-making.  

The CDC website offers the following protocols for institutions of higher education (IHE). The more a person interacts with others and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread in the community. Risk is also affected by factors such as background rates of infection in the community and individuals’ compliance with mitigation strategies, such as use of masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene. IHEs should communicate their selected level of risk so people can make more informed decisions about attendance, especially those with disabilities and people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in IHE non-residential (i.e., off-campus housing) and residential (i.e., on-campus housing) settings with the level of COVID activity in the community and as follows:

IHE General Settings

Lowest Risk

  • Faculty and students engage in virtual-only learning options, activities, and events.

Some Risk

  • Students, faculty, and staff follow all steps to protect themselves and others at all times, including proper use of face masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene.
  • Hybrid learning model: Students participate in virtual learning, and in-person learning is limited to courses and laboratory instruction that cannot be delivered remotely.
  • Students, faculty, and staff participate in small, in-person classes, activities, and events that allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart (e.g., lecture room with individual seating spaced 6 feet apart).
  • Students avoid out-of-class social gatherings and events and communications, and policies discourage these activities.
  • Apply and support strict adherence to cohorting, alternating schedules, and staggered schedules in residence halls, dining areas, and recreational areas on campus to create small groups of students and minimize their contact with others (e.g., small cohorts of freshmen who live and learn together).
  • Students, faculty, and staff do not share objects (e.g., laboratory, art, or recreational equipment and supplies).
  • Regularly scheduled (e.g., at least daily or between use) cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas occur as planned (i.e., on-time and consistently).

Medium Risk

  • Students, faculty, and staff follow all steps to protect themselves and others such as proper use of face masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene.
  • Hybrid learning model: Students participate in a mix of virtual learning and in-person learning for all courses (in-person learning is not limited to specific courses).
  • Students, faculty, and staff participate in larger in-person classes, activities, and events that allow people to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart (e.g., classroom with marked seating or seating removed to encourage sitting 6 feet apart).
  • Apply cohorting, alternating schedules, and staggered schedules with some exceptions in residence halls, dining areas, and recreational areas on campus.
  • Students, faculty, and staff participate in limited, small out-of-class social gatherings and events.
  • Students, faculty, and staff dine outside whenever possible, or in well-ventilated rooms with social distancing applied.
  • Students and faculty share objects minimally (e.g., sharing of objects is limited to one person at a time for laboratory, art, or recreational equipment and supplies that cannot be purchased or assigned individually and that are wiped down with disinfectant, as possible, between uses).
  • Regularly scheduled cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas occur as planned with few exceptions.

Higher Risk

  • Students, faculty, and staff follow some steps to protect themselves and others at all times such as proper use of face masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene.
  • Students and faculty engage in in-person only learning, activities, and events.
  • Students, faculty, and staff attend several small out-of-class social gatherings and events.
  • Students, faculty, and staff dine in indoor dining rooms while maintaining social distancing.
  • Students and faculty share some objects (e.g., sharing of objects is limited to one group of students at a time for laboratory, art, or recreational equipment and supplies that cannot be purchased or assigned individually and that are wiped down with disinfectant, as possible, between uses).
  • Irregularly scheduled cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas.

Highest Risk

  • Use of public buses, campus buses/shuttles or other high-occupancy enclosed vehicles with limited ventilation and/or that require students, faculty, or staff to have sustained close contact with others. CDC’s Protect Yourself When Using Transportation provides tips for minimizing your risk when using public transportation.
  • Students, faculty, and staff do not/are not required to follow steps such as proper use of face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene to protect themselves and others.
  • Students and faculty regularly engage in in-person learning, activities, and events.
  • Students, faculty, and staff attend large out-of-class social gatherings and events.
  • Students and faculty freely share objects.
  • Students, faculty, and staff dine in indoor dining rooms without social distancing.
  • Irregularly scheduled cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas.

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as hand washing, staying home when sick) and environmental prevention practices (such as cleaning and disinfection) are important principles. Fortunately, there are a number of actions IHE administrators can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread.

The following recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings.

Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings.
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.

For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
  • All these actions are a measure of our progress. They are all part of our history now, a history I pray we as people of faith and country can reckon with in honesty.
  • We are monitoring all updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services for guidance on the outbreak nationwide.  For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the websites for the CDC COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions, Disciples News Service and Disciples and COVID-19.   We encourage everyone to exercise caution, ask questions and seek information from knowledgeable sources. 

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

With hope,

Charisse L. Gillett

President

 Updated September 13, 2021


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

An Update on Our Response to COVID-19

Dear Colleagues:

COVID-19 is a global pandemic with national, regional, and local implications for how we live and workFive months ago when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic, I’m not sure we could have imagined the magnitude of the disruption to our lives. Regretfully, this disruption is likely to continue in our professional, personal, spiritual, and economic lives for the foreseeable future. We have adapted and are adapting to a new normal on all fronts. I thank all of you for your willingness to do so for yourselves as well as your willingness to do so as an accountability measure to our students and your LTS colleagues.   

This sense of accountability for our mission, students, and one another was apparent in the responses to the LTS Operations Survey. As anticipated, there is deep concern by LTS employees about returning to the campus in the midst of the pandemic. These concerns are universal with regard to the need for supplemental cleaning of the campus, consistent use of personal protection equipment (PPE) by all employees, strict observance of social distancing, continued support for remote work practices, and overwhelming support for online rather onsite January Intensives in 2021.   

Based upon the survey results, LTS will:

• Hire a cleaning company to undertake supplemental deep cleaning of the campus.

• Maintain healthy at-work practices to support those electing to work on campus at least one to three days a week.

• Observe strict use of PPE while in common areas and strict use of social distancing on campus.

• Maintain remote work practices from Sep. 4, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.

• Conduct January 2021 Intensives in an online format.

• Close the LTS on-campus library to all external traffic until further notice.

• Reestablish Monday morning coffee and monthly lunches to supplement formal information sessions regarding campus activities.

The summer flex time will conclude on Friday, Sept. 4. We ask each employee to schedule a conversation with their appropriate supervisor to arrange a formal check-in day to maintain open lines of communication.  

The seminary is responding to reports of escalating new cases of coronavirus in Kentucky, events as they unfold in the 26 states in which our students reside, and events that impact the more than 100 congregations that serve as accountable-learning ministry sites for our students. It is our hope the above measures will allow LTS faculty, staff, and students to better plan and adapt to their circumstances in this period of uncertainty. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we urge everyone to keep up to date with necessary health and safety precautions as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov. For information on Kentucky guidelines and testing locations, see www.kycovid19.ky.gov.

In the coming weeks, you will receive an invitation to join me online for our annual LTS luncheon and a conversation on measuring our progress and our hopes for FY21. There is much to share and discuss, and I look forward to doing so.

Should you have particular questions or comments about the steps above or want me to address specific questions during our conversation on measuring our progress, please email me at cgillett@lextheo.edu.

With hope,

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett President 


Sunday, March 22, 2020

President Charisse L. Gillett addresses the question of how the seminary is responding to events surrounding the COVID-19 virus and global pandemic.

Link to the public Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/lexington.theological.seminary/videos/232775137867480/


Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Message From Our President

Dr. Charissee L. Gillett

Dear LTS Community,

Here at LTS, we are praying for all of you and your families. I am also praying God’s blessings on our students and their families. I am praying for all who are leading and serving in congregations, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, businesses, and for our first responders.  I am also praying to God for wisdom and strength to fill our leaders as they discern the best path forward.

A little more than a month ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic. In this new context uncertainty has become the new normal, and anxiety has become a constant companion.  With this in mind, it is important to approach our work and ministry in ways that acknowledge and attend to the practicalities of working in this crisis, while also attending to everyone’s very real emotional and spiritual needs.

As a practical matter, the seminary is responding to events as they unfold in the 26 states where our students reside, and to events that impact the more than 100 congregations which serve as accountable-learning ministry sites for our students. Our students’ health and well-being is our primary concern. And for that reason, in consultation with our faculty, staff and some board members, I made the very tough decision that June 2020 Intensives will be moved from in-person to a virtual model. Likewise, June 2020 Graduation will be held in a virtual ceremony. Graduate candidates will receive their regalia in the mail. We are inviting graduates to select someone who has been significant in their academic journey to hood them in the virtual ceremony. Our 2020 Candidates have also been invited to return to Lexington to participate fully in our 2021 Graduation ceremony and festivities.

We are supporting our students in their ministries and in their personal lives. To that end, we are hosting Virtual Town Hall meetings next week to hear their joys and concerns and to answer their questions. We have offered counseling and spiritual direction to our students at no cost and are in constant communication with them.

Living in the time of a pandemic is difficult, but as a community of faith, we are called to just such a time as this. We are called to find God everywhere, in everyone, all the time and to point God out to others. We are called to experience joy in the midst of despair and to experience peace in the midst of suffering. Let us offer one another the connectivity of listening, the gift of laughter, and the serenity of solitude. Let us remind each other that what binds us together is the Living God.  Let us remember and remind each other of the beauty and comfort present in our Holy Scriptures.  I invite you to take a moment to read Psalm 46 and listen to the hope and beauty therein.     

Breathe in deeply the spirit of God, friends.

Psalm 46:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

With hope,

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President  

For information we recommend CDC COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions and Disciples and COVID-19.


Friday, March 20, 2020

A Message from President Gillett and Dean Martell

Dear LTS Students,

Here at LTS, we are praying for all of you and your families, and indeed for our entire LTS community. I am praying God’s blessings on all who are leading and serving in congregations, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, businesses, and for our first responders.  I am also praying to God for wisdom and strength to fill our leaders as they discern the best path forward.     

We are living in extraordinary times. And while they are not unprecedented (such as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic), globalization and increased population has exponentially exacerbated this pandemic. Yet, beyond all financial turmoil and viral infestations, one truth remains: God is. Above all things, God is.

Isaiah 41: 10 says, “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God who strengthens you. I will uphold you…” As the world shakes, let us take strength, and be reassured that the God who called us into service, the God of whom we preach and teach, the God for whom we march for justice, has not walked away. God is.

It is in that faith and reassurance that LTS has moved forward and continues to move forward. As we have consulted with members of the Board, with faculty, administrative staff, and with students, we have come to the following conclusions:

  1. Intensives—The June 2020 Intensives will be held virtually using Zoom and Canvas. We have made this decision out of an abundance of caution for your health and safety, and in anticipation that travel may be quite difficult for some.
  2. Graduation— June 2020 Graduation will be held virtually via Zoom. Graduates will receive their regalia in the mail and may select someone who was significant in their academic journey to hood them. (More information to come.) 2020 Graduates will also be invited to return to Lexington, KY and participate in June 2021 Commencement Ceremonies and Celebrations (including Communion, Stand in Prayer, and Awards luncheon).
  3. Town Hall Discussion – We want to hear from you. Please join us for a Town Hall discussion regarding living in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic on Tuesday, March 24.  10:00-11:00 AM ET or Friday, March 27, 11:00-12:00 PM ET (Details below) We want to hear from you about how you are coping personally and in your ministry. Dr. Martell will answer your questions regarding your intensives, graduation, class assignments, and capstone projects. Ms. Windy Kidd will be on hand to responds to questions about financial aid and registration.  Rev. Jan Ehranmatraut will be on hand to share information about our upcoming prayers services.
  4. Ongoing Support – Please feel free to reach out to Ms. Windy Kidd, registrar at wkidd@lextheo.edu with questions about scheduling and courses or to Dr. Loida I. Martell, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean at lmartell@lextheo.edu for any other questions. If you need to reach the dean quickly for a pressing issue or emergency, you can text her at 859-300-9979. If you need a time of prayer or solace, the Rev. Jan Ehrmantraut at jerthmantraut@lextheo.edu is available. Dr. Francesca Nuzzolese, Program Advisor for the MPS, who is a licensed therapist and trained spiritual director, has also offered her services free of charge. Please feel free to write to her for an appointment at icareforyou320@gmail.com. Ms. Dominique Highfil, Instructional Designer and Technologist is available to help with issues with Canvas or other technology questions you have. She can be reached at dhighfil@lextheo.edu. We have a dedicated team of professionals at LTS who are here to support you, pray with you and for you, and to answer pertinent questions that may arise for you.

We are going to continue to work with our faculty and staff and ensure that those of you who wish to continue with your courses can do so, that those of you who need to pause can do so, and those of you who need extensions can receive them. The good news is that LTS already has the online and structural tools to deal with many of the issues and questions you might be facing.

As we move forward, as the world is shaken and panics, let us be Church. Let us be the living sacraments that witness to the living God. God is.

In Christ,

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President

Dr. Loida I. Martell, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Deano


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

To: All LTS students

Dear students:

The peace of the Lord be with each of you.

Most likely over the past few weeks you have been assailed with myriad reports from sundry
sources that have presented at times contradictory information. To that end, the President of
LTS, Dr. Charisse L. Gillett sent a notice last week via Constant Contact with helpful links that
provide information. I would strongly urge that you use the links for accurate information. You
will be receiving further notifications in the coming days as we re-evaluate some of the events
that we planned for the spring of 2020.

We are currently facing a world-wide viral pandemic with the introduction of COVID-19,
otherwise referred to as coronavirus, into a susceptible human population. As a result,
government leaders in many regions of the United States have been encouraging self-distancing,
and in some cases self-isolation. In light of increasing restrictions upon public gatherings, in
many instances, churches have deemed it safer to meet via virtual rooms rather than risk the
well-being of their congregants. Given that the LTS curriculum is congregationally centered, this
new reality has created some challenges. The President, Dean, and faculty of LTS are
recommended the following to all faculty:

First, that when merited, faculty permit requests for extensions (incomplete grades) according to
the policy stated in the Student Handbook, https://www.lextheo.edu/5-0-academic-policies-and-procedures/#5.6
We understand that many of you are currently facing challenges as you care for
children, families, parents, and others; and many of you are helping your congregations transition
to online formats or otherwise deal with the consequences of the pandemic facing so many of us.
Faculty have the option to provide extensions for students who are at the moment overwhelmed
with many of these responsibilities.

Second, if you are taking a course that has a “congregational assignment,” or if you are taking
competency exams or completing capstone exercises—each which has a congregational
component—then we strongly urge you not to complete these congregational activities in a
public gathering exceeding 25 people or where social distancing is not possible. Rather, we are
strongly urging you to complete the congregational requirement in one of two ways: 1) record
yourself preaching, teaching, instructing, etc. (whatever the activity calls you to do) in an empty
room; or, 2) use Zoom or other live stream media to fulfill the activity, and record it. We will
make Zoom accounts available to students completing capstone projects. For those completing
competency exams, please contact me (lmartell@lextheo.edu) to see if any Zoom rooms are
available for your use.

LTS has been an online school for more than a decade (since 2010). We understand the
intricacies of what it means to be an online schoo and a community. We learned over the years
how one is a community in spite of the distances. Let us model that now for the world. Our
mission is “to prepare faithful leaders for the church of Jesus Christ and, thus, to strengthen the
church’s participation in God’s mission for the world.” Let us model that mission by living out
what we have learned in the classroom: to care for others in Christ’s love, to care for ourselves as
creation of God, and to embody the gathering of the community under the grace of God’s Spirit.

Be safe and be well.

In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Loida I. Martell
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean
Professor of Constructive Theology

Cc: Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President