Newberry College’s Board of Trustees has reviewed a preliminary action plan for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year this fall, following a spring semester marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If the spread of the disease continues to decline and the campus receives advice and counsel from the health professionals that reopening is allowable,” said President Maurice Scherrens, “Newberry College will be ready to enter into this ‘new normalcy’ with a safe and secure environment, committed to creating an effective and exciting learning and co-curricular experience. We will open Newberry strong.”
The college plans to begin the fall semester with classes on campus as scheduled in August, with modifications to ensure social distancing and other provisions for the health of students and employees. The administration also presented models with differing enrollment levels and with different semester start dates. While no cases of COVID-19 have been identified on campus, the models were presented amid uncertainty regarding the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on student enrollment and operations.
The college intends to offer some courses online to ensure a safe campus environment, however most courses will be taught with fewer than 20-25 students in the classroom with adequate physical distancing. In addition to redesigning living spaces in the residence halls to increase social distancing, the college will create a number of small living learning communities in several of the college-owned houses that adjoin the campus. The college will also reconfigure the cafeteria and increase dining space by utilizing outdoor dining and enhancing the indoor dining venue.
“Out of adversity comes opportunity,” said Rob Best, 1971 Newberry graduate and chair of the board. “And we see a perfect opportunity for the College to emerge from this stronger and safe.”
The board also reaffirmed the college’s capability to continue social distancing protocols, in large part due to its 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, compared to larger universities. College officials have already initiated cleaning and intense sanitation of campus facilities and are developing a health clearance protocol for all incoming and returning students, faculty and staff.
“Uncertainty requires institutional agility and a state of readiness for a number of different options. We are prepared for these different scenarios, but today, we fully expect to start on time in the fall under a ‘new normal’ brought on by COVID-19,” said Scherrens. “Newberry College is well suited to maintain a safe environment for students, faculty and staff. College life will be different, but the learning environment will remain vibrant and the social life of our students will be re-imagined.”