by K.C. Lopez
• Published on • Last modified on
BETHLEHEM, PA - The summer season is just beginning but that only means the fall semester is inching closer for colleges and universities. After the COVID-19 health crisis closed campuses across the country, schools in the Lehigh Valley are planning how to get students and staff back in class, safely.
"As we’ve been planning, we are thinking first and foremost about the safety of the community and how we create new and different experiences for students to learn and make connections in an environment that is still COVID conscious," explains VP of Campus Life at Lafayette College, Annette Diorio, "We don’t anticipate a vaccine, we don’t anticipate really great treatment options being available so we still need to manage our environment in a way that is aware of the disease."
Lehigh University, Moravian College and Lafayette College have all announced their plans to welcome students back this fall with new regulations and guidelines to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.
"Will students be required to wear masks? I think the answer is likely yes, that students will be required to wear masks while at least indoors on campus," explains incoming Provost and Sr. VP of Academic Affairs at Lehigh University, Nathan Urban, "A lot of questions about exactly how dorm life will look, how classrooms will work, about which classes will be accessible online. We have some students who may choose, or may be forced to not arrive on campus. Either international students who can’t get visas or students who are worried about coming to campus for one reason or another. Maybe they have a health condition that would make the virus more dangerous for them. And so we’ve been trying to make sure students can access the Lehigh education even if they’re not on campus."
While Lafayette is moving their start date up two weeks, the first day of classes will not change for Lehigh and Moravian students. But all three colleges have opted to cancel fall break and send students home for Thanksgiving; in an effort to curb students from returning to campus after the busy travel holiday, students will not return until the spring semester.
"We will not have any in person classes, nothing face to face after Thanksgiving," Moravian College Provost Cynthia Kosso tells PBS39 News reporter, K.C. Lopez, "So that when undergraduates go home after Thanksgiving, we’re not going to be bringing them back until the spring semester. So that doesn’t mean class necessarily ends at that time. For some, there might be a few more days of course work they need to do or exams after the break. But those will have to be done online."
The Northampton County campuses will implement changes to maintain social distancing and are asking students to wear masks in lectures, labs and other shared spaces. Lehigh dorms will not include triples or quads, Moravian is installing disinfectant stations and plexi glass partitions while Lafayette is also doing away with triples in dorms and designating isolation beds for students.
"We have eliminated all our triples and we have done some selective reduction of densities in some of our residence hall areas to help lower that number there," Diorio tells Lopez, " And of course set some beds aside as isolation beds for students so we can get them out of an environment there."
All three of these colleges plan to use a hybrid of in-person and virtual class instruction. A decision that has proven to be top of mind for students planning to return in the fall.
"Considerably more people will be using some type of technology in a blended format," explains Kosso, "Some will be fully online but every single faculty member is spending the summer preparing high quality online classes in case we need to go online like we had to do in the spring."
A survey of one thousand students by LendEDU found that 30% of American high school students would consider deferring or not enrolling in their school of choice if they were to resume with online-only instruction. And nationwide, The Chronicle of Higher Education has foundthat about 65% of schools nationwide have confirmed plans to resume in-person classes this fall.
Urban tells Lopez, "Up until the time that we announced that we would be inviting students back on campus the single biggest question was, will we be on campus? And so we’ve sort of taken care of that one and answered that one in an affirmative way."
This story appeared on the PBS39 website on June 26, 2020. To watch it on the PBS39 website, please visit: Local Colleges Begin Preparing Changes for Students to Return for the Fall Semester