Avoiding COVID-19: Westminster Announces Changes to Fall 2020 Calendar
Westminster College announced on June 17 that students will return to campus a week early to avoid any potential late-fall spikes of COVID-19. Classes will now begin Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, take place on Labor Day and end with the last final exam on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.
In a letter to students, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. David Roebuck and Vice President/Dean of Student Life Dr. Kasi Lacey explained that students will depart from campus just before Thanksgiving break and not return until Spring Semester 2021 begins in January. They added that the decision to end the semester early was approved recently by faculty.
The letter stated that Westminster’s COVID-19 Task Force has met extensively to formulate health and safety plans that incorporate federal, state and local guidelines and recommendations.
“At this time, we are focusing on the upcoming fall semester and want to make sure your experience on campus continues to be rewarding and transformational,” the letter stated.
The schedule change also allows the College to expand and lengthen its usual virtual winter session that takes place during the holiday break.
Roebuck and Lacey emphasized that the decision to alter the academic schedule is the result of a lengthy decision-making process at the College that included alterations to classroom and lab spaces.
In addition, faculty are training vigorously this summer to be equipped to offer “interactive, rigorous and exciting classes in any modality.” As a result, the College will be prepared to offer students its well-regarded Westminster experience through traditional teaching methods as well as through a hybrid of virtual and traditional methods. Finally, Westminster is prepared to pivot to a virtual setting as it did in March 2020 using the Digital Blue Virtual Learning Program that employs college-issued iPads provided to every student.
In an interview, Roebuck and Lacey agreed that in addition to changes to the academic calendar and alterations to educational delivery methods, the College has thoroughly reevaluated its facilities in preparation for Fall Semester 2020. The Offices of Student Life and Plant Operations together implemented guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the American College Health Association and the Callaway County Health Department.
“We want our beloved students and their families to feel safe here at Westminster College and to know that their health and safety are our first priority,” Lacey said.
Changes made throughout campus include the careful measurement of all classrooms to allow for social distancing of six feet or more, the installation of plastic shields in highly trafficked office areas, a plan for the daily disinfecting of all classrooms, the purchase of personal protective equipment to be used in labs, alterations to cafeteria eating arrangements and the creative use of outdoor space for various activities such as socially distanced yoga.
Roebuck added, “We are positive students will receive the full Westminster College experience, which is really what makes our liberal arts education, and our students, stand out.”