Adapting to a New Normal: Fall Semester Planning Amidst COVID-19

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As educational institutions worldwide prepare for an unprecedented fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are taking extensive measures to ensure a safe and productive learning environment.

According to Ross Allen, a newly-appointed college president, several adjustments and modifications will be implemented while trying to maintain the essence of the community students have known. Allen also pointed out that a survey sent to students revealed their preference for in-person classes, despite the challenges presented by the current situation.

The Community Agreement: A Pledge for Collective Health Responsibility

Incoming and returning students are asked to sign an additional item on their enrollment checklist called the Community Agreement. This document acknowledges their responsibility for their own health and being respectful of others’ health.

Failing to adhere to this agreement may result in corrective measures. “We are still actively planning for a safe return to campus for all of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Kristi Moline, Executive Director of Bethel’s Center for Healthcare Excellence.

Mandatory Masks to Support Community Safety

Following Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s state mandate, masks will be required in public indoor spaces when not eating or drinking. Dean of Student Programs Miranda Powers encourages students to see past the inconvenience of wearing masks and focus on the desire to build a strong community. She cited 1 Peter 1:6 as encouragement, which reads:

“So truly be glad.
There is wonderful joy ahead,
even though you have
to endure many trials
for a little while.”

To further support the Community Agreement, students are expected to monitor their health daily. A dedicated app will be used to track personal health records, with further information released soon.

  • COVID-19 Cases Highest Among 20-29 Age Group
  • Mayo Clinic Labs Partnerships for On-Campus Testing
  • Limited Dining Center Capacity & Take-Out Meal Options
  • App Utilized to Monitor Personal Health Records Daily
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As fall semester approaches, new challenges are being faced to ensure the safety of all students and faculty while preserving a sense of normalcy. New measures are implemented across various aspects of campus life, including residence halls, dining services, academics, and extracurricular activities.

Adapting Academic Programs

For the upcoming semester, institutions may need to find creative solutions for holding classes safely. Large spaces previously unused for classes, such as Benson Great Hall, the Underground, and the Lakeside Center Library, may be repurposed for larger class sizes, ensuring safe distancing among students. 

Meanwhile, online courses will either use platforms like Zoom for real-time lectures or asynchronous learning methods that let students complete coursework at their own pace.

It is important to note that not all course offerings can transition smoothly to digital formats. For example, some science labs may only be available in person. To get clarity on the instructional format of specific courses, students should consult their academic schedules and communicate with professors if needed.

Music, Theater, and Athletics: Finding the Balance Between Safety and Performance

Extra precautions must be taken in fields that involve close physical contact or potential virus transmission through respiratory droplets. Music rehearsals and theater performances may require enhanced safety measures such as utilizing larger spaces, reducing group sizes, or shortening sessions to accommodate more student groups. Jonathan Veenker, Chair of the Department for Music and Theatre, affirms that they are actively working on drafting protocols for these unique challenges.

Recreational sports will also need to adapt to promote safety on campus. Options such as disc golf, foot golf, pickleball, cornhole, and possibly bowling will be made available to fill students’ leisure time while maintaining safe social distances.

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Facing an Uncertain Future with Resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant disruptions in higher education, forcing colleges and universities to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances.

As institutions prepare for a fall semester unlike any other, it is crucial for both faculty and students to work together as a community, taking responsibility for their health while fostering a supportive environment. In times like these, it is essential to remain strong and united, embracing resilience and keeping faith in the wonderful joy ahead.

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