COVID-19: Change in Spring 2021 Calendar
Dear Covenant Scots,
I'm writing this evening to share important information about our plans for the spring semester. Before I do that, I want to say thank you for the efforts you've made to care for other members of our community by complying with the restrictions and guidelines we've established for our campus. I think you know that while these guidelines aren't always our preference, or aren't always fun, they're the things that allow us to continue to be on campus together in the midst of a public health situation that has shut down many other colleges. I'm grateful to you for the efforts you've made to abide by these guidelines, even when you might not prefer to. As of this afternoon, we have only one confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in our student body, and only two students in quarantine. That's a remarkable testament both to your willingness to comply with public health guidelines and to God's gracious watchcare over us as a community. Thank you, and please keep it up! (We all want to be here until November 24.)
As we look to the spring semester, we want to continue to make it our priority to be together on campus for face-to-face education. We believe that this is the best way for you to benefit from the transformational experience that has always been the hallmark of a Covenant College education. In view of this priority, we will postpone the start of the spring semester until Monday, February 1, with the semester to conclude with commencement on Saturday, May 22.
We are making this decision in light of the priorities we established last spring, as we looked toward the resumption of face-to-face education on our campus:
The protection of the most vulnerable in our community
The safety and well-being of all students and employees
Residential delivery of courses, with accommodations for remote learning
The closest approximation as practicable of the Covenant experience
The decision to delay the start of our spring semester aligns with the medical advice we've received and complements the decision we made to compress the fall semester and finish before Thanksgiving. Most significantly in this regard, our revised Spring 2021 schedule will allow us to avoid having our community on campus for the peak flu/respiratory disease season. Competition with the flu has real potential to complicate our tracking of, and response to, COVID-19 cases. All of us will be well-served if we can get beyond the peak of the flu and cold season before coming back to campus.
The decision to delay the start of the spring semester also presents several benefits:
It allows us to avoid January weather that is dreary and can negatively impact mental health.
It affords us more access to "outdoor friendly" weather, which gives us the opportunity to take advantage both of the natural beauty that is a feature of our campus and our new outdoor gathering spaces (e.g., the West Pavilion).
It provides more time for you to test negative for COVID-19 after family gatherings over Christmas and New Years. (At present, we plan to require students to supply a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus for the spring semester).
It allows us to offer an online January term (J-Term). We'll be providing more details on this offering in the days to come. For now, it is perhaps sufficient to say that there is potential for course-, internship-, and intercultural-requirements to be met during this J-Term.
Needless to say, making this adjustment to our spring calendar disrupts aspects of our normal educational program. Nevertheless, we have become convinced that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, and that this course of action provides the best path for us to continue to provide for you face-to-face, Covenant College education.
There will be more details to come on this shift in the calendar and its implications for various aspects of our campus life. (For example, we anticipate that some winter athletes will need to return to campus prior to February 1.) Thank you for your patience and persistence as we adapt to an unusual public health situation.