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COVID-19: Summer Update June 12th

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

Below are updates or reminders on a number of items. Several of these are reiterations of points I delivered in our town hall meeting on Tuesday, but knowing that some people weren't able to attend and others might have forgotten, I decided to go ahead and run the risk of redundancy.

 

Summer Reopening

  • Please be sure to review the guidelines that were distributed via email on May 28. The governor issued a new executive order yesterday that increases the cap for gatherings to 50. Otherwise, the guidelines are up-to-date.

  • Please be sure to screen yourself using the three questions provided in the guidelines before coming to campus.

  • On the staff side, we want to be back at full-strength on campus by July 1 (individual health conditions allowing).

  • The pool will not be open this summer.

Fall Reopening

  • Our COVID-19 Advisory Group is meeting on Wednesday to provide feedback on our plan for reopening in the fall. That group is composed of:

    • John Drake (’99), Ph.D. (Founding Director, Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, University of Georgia)

    • Gill Jeong, M.D. (Pulmonary Specialist, Erlanger Hospital, Chattanooga)

    • Greg May, D.O. (Director, Erlanger Primary Care, Lookout Mountain)

    • David Morton (’75), M.D. (physician/medical missionary)

    • Greg Poland, M.D. (Director, Mayo Vaccine Research Group)

    • Gordon Sluis ('75) (pediatrician and college trustee)

    • David Wharton, M.D. (emergency medicine specialist and campus physician of record)

  • We believe it is highly likely that we will have confirmed cases of COVID-19 at some point during the academic year. Our greatest concerns are how to protect the most vulnerable among us and how to mitigate spread when we do have a confirmed case. Our priorities in planning for the fall are:

    • Protection of the most vulnerable

    • Safety and well-being of all students and employees

    • Seamless bi-modal delivery of the unique Covenant education

    • Closest approximation as practicable of the Covenant experience 

  • Given the continuing fluidity of the situation—new executive orders, changing guidance, new research findings, etc,—there are still many questions we can’t answer about the fall semester (e.g., what will chapel look like? can we do convocation? can we host homecoming? can vocal ensembles gather? can we host athletic events?). We are committed to communicating on these questions as soon as we can.

G.R.A.C.E. Assessment

  • One of the objectives in our strategic plan is to make Covenant a great place for women to work and study. In support of that initiative, we contracted with G.R.A.C.E. to perform an assessment of our campus culture and policies & procedures. If G.R.A.C.E. contacts you regarding participating in an assessment, it is in support of this initiative.

Admissions

  • We currently have 210 active deposits for the fall semester. 

  • We continue to have a larger-than-normal pool of uncommitted admits. Admissions and others are working hard to recruit as many of those uncommitted students as possible.

  • Our numbers of junior and sophomore inquiries (students who have requested info or given us their names) are larger than they have been in the past five years.

Development

  • God has provided much-needed financial support through the generosity of our donors. We have exceeded our annual fund goal of $2.45 million and are approaching the $3 million mark, which will make this a record-setting year for our development office. It is encouraging to know that our supporters believe so deeply in, and care so much for, Covenant College.

Budget

  • While the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on our budget for this year was significant—lost room and board revenue, lost summer camp revenue—our forgivable PPP loan will cover that cash deficit and provide us with some cash cushion going into the new fiscal year.

  • With new student enrollment trending toward being down 13-14% this fall instead of being up 8% as we had budgeted, our cash cushion will be consumed quickly by a shortfall in revenue from tuition, room and board. We will need to make adjustments to our expense budget for this coming year in order to address the remainder of our cash deficit. The cabinet, working with the deans and directors, have identified a number of areas of potential cost savings. We will eliminate a portion of our projected deficit through the attrition of open positions, and we anticipate that we will also pick up savings via a change of food service provider. The impact of additional, smaller budget adjustments is still being calculated. We will not present a complete, amended budget until we have a clearer picture of fall enrollment.

  • Using a new budget modeling tool that Fred Verwoerd has developed, the cabinet will engage in multi-year budget modeling over the summer.

I recognize that all of you are laboring diligently in a fog of uncertainty regarding the fall and under the cloud of recent events that have made evident just how pervasive the influence of sin is in our world. Know that I am immensely grateful for your faithfulness to your callings and to Covenant College, especially in these trying times. I pray that God grants each of you a restful weekend and a Lord’s Day during which your souls are truly refreshed.

 

In Christ,

 

JDH