Starr King School for the Ministry is determined to protect the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff, while continuing our mission of training religious and social-change leaders. School leadership will continue to watch developments closely and take all necessary and responsible steps for the sake of our community and society at large. If you have any questions or comments about our efforts, please contact the SKSM COVID-19 Monitoring Group: Dr. Gabriella Lettini (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr. Christopher Schelin (email@example.com), and Rev. Jacqueline Duhart (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fall 2021 Reopening
Starr King School for the Ministry, in collaboration with our partners at Mills College, has planned for a safe opening of our Vera Long Hall campus during the 2021-2022 academic year. Beginning on August 31, staff and faculty are conducting school business regularly from their offices. Upon the beginning of the fall semester on September 7, hybrid classes will have the option to meet partially in-person. Should improving conditions warrant, Starr King will finally hold a large in-person regathering of our community during the annual Symposium on January 8, 2022.
Because COVID-19 will remain a lingering concern for some time, certain adaptations have been implemented. In keeping with Mills College policy, all persons who wish to visit the campus must be fully vaccinated. While the general risk to vaccinated individuals of severe infection is extremely low, it is not nonexistent. Several persons will have concerns about vaccine efficacy due to certain risk factors such as immunodeficiency. As a result, other precautions will be adopted as well at least through Fall 2021:
• The building will be open and classes held on Tuesdays-Thursdays, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
• COVID-19 antigen tests will be purchased and utilized as needed.
• Hand sanitizer stations will be available for immediate disinfecting upon entry.
• Air filters have been purchased and will operate throughout the building to ensure the regular cleaning and recycling of air.
• Social distancing at a minimum of three feet will be maintained for classes, meetings, and other events that entail groups assembling for extended periods of time.
• As of July 2021, the circulation of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant means that we will require all individuals present on campus to wear masks when they gather. We will adjust or remove the mask mandate when guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and the State of California indicates this will be prudent.
We believe these practices establish a baseline to secure overall community health while respecting the choices individuals must make regarding their own safety. Classes and meetings will all be conducted in hybrid format so that persons may opt to participate either in person or at home.
We encourage our students to closely monitor developments in the national vaccination campaign and apply for an appointment once they become eligible. Information about vaccine eligibility and distribution will be available from your state and local public health departments as well as your primary care physician.
California has contracted with Blue Shield to centralize the state’s vaccination efforts. Residents of California should visit myturn.ca.gov to determine eligibility and attempt to schedule an appointment. As of late February, the state began entering Tier 1B, allowing workers in education to be vaccinated. Starr King faculty and staff are beginning to receive their vaccines.
More information about the vaccines is provided by the CDC at the COVID-19 Vaccination website.
November 2, 2020 Update:
We remain determined to protect the safety and wellbeing of all students, faculty, and staff, while continuing our mission of training religious and social-change leaders. Given the realities of Covid-19 in Alameda county, we have decided to hold Symposium, January intensives, and Spring courses exclusively online this year.
The ECO Core Intensive and the Introduction to Preaching will take place over the course of 8 days: January 11-15 and 19-21; 10:00-1:00 pm PST synchronous session plus two hours of work in asynchronous online modality, including breaks.
The Multireligious Intensive will take place over six days, on January 24-29: 9:30 am – 1:30 pm PT; 4 hours synchronous and 1.5 hours asynchronous per day.
Our course catalogue clearly identifies which remote courses take place synchronously or asynchronously.
September 22, 2020 Update:
We know many of you are planning your academic year in the midst of real uncertainty. We remain determined to protect the safety and wellbeing of all students, faculty, and staff, while continuing our mission of training religious and social-change leaders. Late last spring we made a commitment to inform this beloved community about plans for our annual January symposium and for January intersession classes by November 1st. Given the realities of Covid-19 in Alameda county and the ongoing impact on both international and domestic travel, we have decided to hold both Symposium and January intensives exclusively online this year.
This update is meant to give everyone as much time as possible to plan for January classes and for Symposium, which will be held on January 9, between spring orientation and the start of intersession classes. More specifics about Symposium and the format on intersession classes will be forthcoming. We are still reviewing the feedback from our summer courses and will connect with student body leaders as we make decisions about the January session.
As of March 9 2020, all in-person Spring classes were shifted to meeting online via Zoom.
Summer courses will take place remotely, in both synchronous and asynchronous online modalities.
In light of the persisting challenges and safety concerns posed by the pandemic, all SKSM Fall 2020 courses will still take place online, either asynchronously or synchronously. Our website explains the modality of each course and students should refer to the website for the most current course information: www.sksm.edu/academics/full-course-catalog.
Links for COVID-19 at member schools:
Field Education and CPE Opportunities
Public health orders and voluntary precautions have resulted in significant restrictions on civil society and commerce. Churches have moved their services online, nonprofit organizations have curtailed their activities, and hospitals have banned visitors and nonessential personnel. These measures have affected students’ ability to find and complete field work and internship experiences or Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) units. SKSM provides the following guidance at this time:
Unitarian Universalist Parish Internships remain in place for the 2020-2021 teaching year, although these have transformed into online internships. The UUA has advised its congregations to maintain digital-only activities until May 2021 barring significant improvements to the public health situation.
CPE Centers have made a variety of adaptations in response to local circumstances and directives at their clinical sites. Some centers have cancelled CPE units, others have become fully online with students engaging in tele-chaplaincy, and others have allowed interns to serve onsite, subject to enhanced protective measures. A few distance-learning CPE programs were already operating in advance of the pandemic. These centers conduct group instruction and individual supervision online while the interns make arrangements for clinical hours at one or more settings in their vicinity. Students who wish to complete a CPE unit in the coming year should search the directories of the major accrediting bodies.
Other Field Work and Field Internship Opportunities may be available to you through online programs or local initiatives, perhaps especially in responses to the public health and economic crises. SKSM will inform you of positions as they are advertised by churches and organizations. It is also possible to develop field education credit opportunities that are not based in an established organization, provided the student can develop a self-regulated work load and recruit a suitable mentor/supervisor.
Further general information about field education and CPE is available in the SKSM Contextual Education Handbook. Please direct any additional questions to Dr. Christopher Schelin, Director of Contextual Education.
As indicated above, all SKSM Fall courses will still take place online, either asynchronously or synchronously. Our website explains the modality of each course and students should refer to the website for the most current course information: www.sksm.edu/academics/full-course-catalog.
Staff and faculty have been asked to continue their regular duties but work from home. All employee meetings are taking place on Zoom.
Chapel will continue to operate as a monthly, fully-online service. We meet on the first Tuesday of the month at 11:00 am PT, September to December and February to May.
No public events sponsored by Starr King are being scheduled on campus until further notice. All of our events will take place online.
Travel: SKSM recommends that students, faculty, and staff avoid all international travel as well as avoid or restrict nonessential domestic travel.
The GTU Library is currently closed to all but essential personnel in compliance with a Shelter-In-Place Order issued on March 16, 2020. However, the Library continues to provide access to digital resources and provide remote services to our academic communities. Please check the website for the most current information: https://www.gtu.edu/library. The following services are in place:
- Ask-a-librarian chat: available from the library webpages, the reference librarians will be online M-F from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
- Email: send all questions (about anything) to email@example.com
- Zoom by appointment
- Distance Students Guide: Guide for Distance Students
- Remote Materials Pick Up
- Extended due dates: No items will be due while we are closed, we have extended all due dates. Please login to your library account to see these changes. However, if students are leaving the bay area, the book return at 2400 Ridge Road is available for drop off of items.
- Online workshops: Yes, we are preparing more workshops to be held in Zoom. Workshops will be advertised on the library homepage and workshops page.
- Full access for special students: Some categories of people (like auditors) only had in-library access to digital materials like ebooks. For the duration of the semester the Library has extended full remote access to anyone sitting in on classes. If you have students in these categories, and they don’t know how to login, please have them email firstname.lastname@example.org
This information can also be found on the Remote Library Resources page.
CARES Act – HEERF Report
Starr King received an allocation of $23,860.00 earmarked for students from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Starr King has signed and returned the HEERF certification and agreement form and has used or intends to use the funds to provide the mandated amount of at least 50% of the emergency financial aid grants to students. No funding has been distributed as of June 22, 2020. Starr King is required to make accessible to the public a report describing the use of funds and how they were distributed, 30 days after the allocation of funds, and must update it every 45 days thereafter.
The regulation states that only students who are or who could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV (TIV) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA) may receive emergency financial aid grants. The estimated total number of students at the institution eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to apply for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act is 84.
The total number of students who received Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act is currently 0 as of June 20, 2020.
Emergency Fund Request Form
The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which is a component of the CARES Act, is intended to provide federal funds for student expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. Eligible expenses include food, housing, course materials, healthcare, childcare, technology, and transportation.
Only students who have completed a FAFSA are eligible to receive these funds.
The application is due by August 1, 2020 but funds are limited. Please apply as soon as possible.
The method(s) that will be used by SKSM to determine which students receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants and how much they would receive under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act is described in detail below.
- SKSM believes that high-residency students enrolled in Spring 2020 term were impacted most by the closure of the college campus and the migration of coursework to online/remote. Therefore, funding is to be offered first to eligible high-residency students who were attending classes on campus. The precise impact will be different for each student, but may include additional expenses related to food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care expenses. Funding is to be awarded to eligible low-residency students, once all high-residency students who applied have been processed for determination of a grant. Low residency students will be determined eligible by the same criteria.
- Students are deemed eligible for the HEEERF funds if they met the following requirements:
- They were enrolled for at least 6 credits in the Spring 2020 term, including Intersession, and pursuing an aid-eligible degree or certificate
- They had a 2019-20 FAFSA on file that confirmed Title IV eligibility criteria including but not limited to the following: U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen and a valid Social Security.
- They were meeting institutional SAP requirements
- Completed an application for the HEERF funds that was approved based on their written impact statement and the criteria above.
The application for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds is provided below. For more information on HEERF and the CARES ACT please click here.
Apply for funds at the link below:
Health & Safety Information
As the pandemic continues to spread across the United States and the world, no one is left unaware of its impact on individuals and communities. We have retained and updated an FAQ section below for basic information and guidance concerning the coronavirus for any who may wish to review this material.
Because all Starr King courses are currently being conducted online and all employees are working from home, we have no additional stipulations about safety measures adopted on campus. Once we resume operations and/or instruction in our new facility at Mills College, we will update this page accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronaviruses are a subfamily of viruses that normally cause mild respiratory tract infections such as the common cold. The novel coronavirus or SARS-COV-2 (often just referred to as “coronavirus”) is a specific viral strain which causes the disease formally labeled Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. The virus appears to have begun with an animal-to-human transmission in Wuhan, China, sometime in late 2019.
What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and pneumonia. Less frequently, persons may experience other cold-like symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, or sore throat) or diarrhea. In rare cases, the virus can lead to organ failure and death.
How is the virus transmitted?
The virus is transmitted through close contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus has a typical incubation period of 2-14 days before symptoms develop and can be spread asymptomatically.
How dangerous is this?
The actual fatality rate of COVID-19 is hard to assess. So far, it appears that more than 80% of persons who test positive for COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, with the remainder requiring hospitalization. Estimates for fatal cases range from 0.2% to over 3%. While the vast majority of infected persons will recover, it is important to note that the fatality rate for novel coronavirus is significantly higher than the flu (around 0.1%). Persons at greater risk for complications include the elderly and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease. Some reports suggest that persons who recover from the virus may experience long-term impairments to bodily processes such as breathing.
What precautions should I take?
- Wash your hands before leaving your residence and upon your return. Scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay at home when you are sick.
- Wear a face mask or face shield while out in public. In certain states and municipalities, this is a legal requirement. For more information, please consult the CDC’s guidance for making, wearing, and cleaning DIY face masks: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.
- Persons with a higher risk of complications, or who wish to avoid infecting friends and family with a higher risk, may wish to take additional steps to isolate themselves. You may want to shop for goods online and/or stock up on extra supplies of food and medicine in order to avoid going out in public at times when the risk of infection appears greater.
Email Scam Safety
Unfortunately, scammers are hard at work attempting to take advantage of the chaotic environment due to the coronavirus. There is a possibility that you may get some texts or emails which appear to have come from President Rosemary Bray McNatt or someone else at Starr King School for the Ministry. This is happening to congregations as well. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Please take the time to look carefully at the email addresses that these messages come from. Official communications from SKSM during this time will come from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Currently, the school does not utilize mass texting as a means of communication.
- The school will never ask you to send gift cards.
- However, the school is preparing for a Relief Fund campaign to raise funds assist to our students who may be struggling. When this occurs, emails will come from email@example.com and we will provide secure links to a giving page on our domain sksm.edu.
- If you receive suspicious messages or solicitations from someone claiming to write on behalf of Starr King School for the Ministry, please let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following tips were shared with us by the Director of Security from Endsight IT Company:
- Never assume all the links in a Google/Yahoo/Bing search are safe.
- Think before you click anything.
- Hover over the link to be sure it’s actually going to the intended location.
- Refuse to open attachments or click links from untrusted sources.
- Verify attachments and links with an alternative communication form like text or phone.
- Never transfer any kind of money or gift cards without verifying with the source. Use text, or phone call to verify, but never the email address making the request as it could be compromised.
- Be extremely cautious when giving any personal or other information requested.
- Keep your home workstations patched and make sure antivirus (AV) is up to date.
Resources – Information
- World Health Organization Coronavirus Information
- Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus Information
- Alameda County Public Health Department Situation Updates
- Contra Costa Health Services Coronavirus Information
- Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Map
Resources – Faith Communities
- Unitarian Universalist Association
- UUA Learnings About Worship Online
- Faithlead.org – I Have Lifestreamed the Lord
- CDC Resources for Faith Leaders
Resources – Social Justice Advocacy
Resources – Personal Resilience
- Harvard – Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety
- Educational Resources for Families with Children
- A Listening Care Package for Uncertain Times
All School Meeting – PM