Section: News

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyon plans to hold a modified, in-person semester in fall

 

In Kenyon’s June 15 update for continuing its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the College announced that the upcoming fall semester will take place in Gambier starting on schedule in late August. On Monday, Aug. 24 students will come to campus with a “phased move-in with assigned time slots in order to administer COVID-19 testing of all students upon arrival,” according to the news bulletin. The in-person semester will conclude prior to Thanksgiving on Tuesday, Nov. 24, after which students will return home for an extended winter break. Final examinations will be held remotely in December, while fall break will be cancelled to limit travel to and from campus.

The College emphasized the importance of maintaining in-person instruction at a time when social distancing has become the norm. “We recognize that students choose Kenyon for the intensive learning experience the College offers,” the news bulletin read. “We aim to retain as much of that experience as possible in the coming year.”

While its plans for the spring semester remain tentative, the College envisions the semester beginning on Feb. 4 and running uninterrupted for 14 weeks into May. According to the College’s announcement, during this period from December to February (dubbed the “winter intersession”) it will “offer specially designed curricular and co-curricular opportunities that enhance and extend offerings beyond the traditional academic semester.”

Kenyon also unveiled a strategy for combating the spread of COVID-19 on campus through a combination of testing, tracing and isolation. The College is finalizing a contract with LabCorp for an initial screening of all students, faculty and staff at the beginning of the academic year. Those who test positive for COVID-19, it said, will be isolated and their contacts traced. LabCorp will test the community periodically throughout the year, with more rigorous testing of people at higher risks for infection, such as student-athletes. Those who are suspected to be infected will be quarantined and tested by the Knox County Health Department. The College will also monitor wastewater for the presence of the COVID-19 virus in an effort to monitor early signs of possible new infections.

In academic spaces, students will likely be required to wear masks and adhere to a six-foot distance policy. 

“No doubt, wearing masks and keeping a safe, 6-foot distance from others — which the State of Ohio recommends for classrooms, laboratories and studios — will require some getting used to. However, we have heard from both students and faculty that in-person instruction is their strong preference, even with these modifications,” the news bulletin read.

The College plans to use the next two months to brainstorm ideas on how to accommodate these changes into the existing course schedule and classroom layouts. While nothing has been finalized, the College noted that, “Some spaces not typically used as classrooms may be equipped for instructional use.”

The College announced that Kenyon sports teams will be allowed to begin practice on Aug. 10. However, the school must follow the North Coast Athletic Conference’s (NCAC) timeline on what, and how, athletic schedules will be determined.

The announcement did not address many of the logistical challenges Kenyon will face in terms of housing, dining and day-to-day campus operations. While the housing selection process is scheduled to begin in early July, the College’s plans for how student residences will meet social distancing standards have yet to be finalized. Likewise, concrete information on the “reimagining [of] dining, recreation and social gatherings” will also be released in July.

The final part of the announcement detailed the process for students and faculty who may need accommodations due to health, travel-related or financial concerns. The announcement stated that students who are in isolation or quarantine and are not able to attend classes in person will likely be able to access a recorded version of lectures and discussion, or even potentially attend the class live via a video platform. For faculty, the College stated that staff members should contact the Office of Human Resources, while faculty members should reach out to the Office of the Provost to request an accommodation. The request “must be submitted in writing and employees will be required to provide written documentation to support their request.”

Students and families interested in learning more about the process will be able to voice their concerns and questions on a livestreamed Q&A on June 18 at 4 p.m EDT. Those with questions can submit them in advance using this form

 

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