Plan Helps Ensure COVID Safety at Academically Critical End of Semester
Wilmington College has achieved success so far in limiting the number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus — and wants to keep it that way. As such, the remainder of most Fall Semester classes will be presented online after Friday (Nov. 20).
College officials reasoned that bringing the entire student body back for two days this Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 23 and 24) and then again following the five-day Thanksgiving recess (Nov. 25-29) might present an elevated risk at what, for many, is the most academically critical time of the term. Indeed, there are only eight class days and three days of final exams scheduled following the break.
Interim President Erika Goodwin stressed, “This is not a campus closure, just a course delivery modification. All classes will continue through the regularly scheduled end of the semester.”
The College has been working closely with the Clinton County Health Department since last spring in developing and refining its practices and protocols relating to the pandemic. As of the end of October, the campus had only four active cases of students testing positive to the novel coronavirus; however, since the second week of November, the College — like the county and state — has realized an uptick in positive cases.
Per state health regulations, positive cases among students and employees require isolating either at home or in designated spaces on campus. The College updates a case tracker daily on the Corona-19 page of its website.
The College has presented the vast majority of its fall semester classes fully in-person while implementing enhanced sanitation and physical distancing measures. It has, however, offered some totally online courses and a number of hybrid classes in which students either attend in-person or virtually on alternate class days or half the class attends in-person while the other half views virtually one day and vice-versa for the next.
Last spring, faculty members scrambled heroically after Spring Break to complete the semester teaching their courses exclusively online. They have been preparing this semester for the likelihood of returning to online instruction in late November. The College has employed a significant amount of radiant classroom technology equipment and secured licenses for the Zoom Room online learning environment, which should readily facilitate the move to online.
“Everybody’s prepared hard to make sure this is a good experience for our students,” Goodwin said, adding that students need to be intentional about “maintaining engagement” with their instructors once classes go online.
The president mentioned that most, but not all, classes will be online after the break. Just over a dozen, including classes in equine, athletic training, chemistry and biology, are scheduled to continue meeting in-person. The College is committed to making arrangements to accommodate any student in those classes who might be unable to return to campus.
Unlike last spring when the physical campus closed following Spring Break, the College’s offices, dining services and other entities, such as computer labs, Student Health Clinic and Career Services, will remain open. Students have the option of continuing to reside on campus, particularly if they are engaged in continuing in-persons courses, internships, academic field and clinical experiences, or local jobs, or if they have such contingencies as Internet connectivity problems or unstable family issues at home.
“The College will continue to offer its residential students housing and meal plans after this weekend and Thanksgiving break through the end of the semester,” Goodwin said.
Students returning to campus after Thanksgiving will be subject to a health screening similar to that implemented upon their arrival in August; however, this brief examination could also include the rapid antigen test for COVID-19. That same protocol will exist when they return to campus for the mid-January start of spring semester classes.
Earlier this month, the College began voluntary asymptomatic testing of students and employees.
Also, sports teams will discontinue training sessions between the end of this week and January. WC is awaiting decisions from the NCAA and Ohio Athletic Conference regarding intercollegiate sports this winter and spring. Since the fall sports season was postponed, plans call for abbreviated fall sports seasons to be held with league competition beginning in March.
For the coming spring semester, the College intends to again offer largely in-person classes complemented by ones available in hybrid and online modalities. WC’s Cincinnati Branch, which operates from the campus of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, plans to bring students back on campus after being exclusively online in the summer and fall. It also will offer hybrid and online courses.