Centre plans return to in-person classes in late August

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Students eat outside of the Campus Center on April 20, 2017.

DANVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Centre College in Danville detailed plans Friday for an in-person return to classes this fall, starting in late August.

In a letter to students, staff and the community, Centre President John A. Roush discussed the plans, the college’s commitment and what will be expected:

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In his letter, Roush said:

“Events of the past weeks remind us of the distance left to go and the importance of having places like Centre College to explore the why’s and map the how’s. History shows that young people in particular always lead in these moments, and we are committed to help develop and grow the important roles they will play as we move forward to realize our ideals.

While our campus community and our nation each remains a work in progress, be assured that the Centre family stands for justice and equity, and we pledge to act in support of the members of our community most directly impacted by racism. Indeed, the health and safety of our entire campus community remains our most important concern, recognizing that what this means is a matter of constant change.

As we chart our future, support by our Board of Trustees at this crucial time and their actions to invest in student financial aid and several capital projects have been invaluable for both our recruitment and retention efforts. In light of present circumstances, deposits for incoming students exceeded our expectations, and our recently completed room draw and course registration indicate excitement by returning students to continue their Centre experience, acknowledging that, at last for the fall, it may be a different experience.

PLANNING FOR IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION IN THE FALL

While the ultimate path of the pandemic still remains beyond the horizon, I am pleased to announce that Centre is planning to welcome its current and incoming students to Danville this fall for in-person instruction beginning August 26, five days earlier than previously planned prior to the spread of the novel coronavirus. The term will end on November 24, just before Thanksgiving, when students will return home. CentreTerm and the spring term are still under review.

We make this important decision based upon what we know today, guidance from experts and government officials, and a view of the virus’ spread. As we have learned over the past months, we all must constantly be adapting our plans relative to new information and realities.

However, as best as circumstances will allow, we are making every effort to return to campus life and activity, offering a meaningful academic experience that is both safe and healthy. Flexibility will be key, as our plan may have to be adapted as we learn more through the summer.

Sensitive to the special and unique circumstances of some members of our campus community—including students, faculty, and staff—we are also preparing for hybrid components to this plan as needed, since we anticipate that some may be unable to join us in-person this fall.

SCENARIO PLANNING

Due diligence is being brought to considering every aspect of our efforts for the fall. Ten subcommittees spent the entire month of May looking in great detail at every operational area of the College in light of local, state, and federal guidelines for health and safety. Reports were submitted by June 1, and ever since then time has been devoted to reviewing each subcommittee’s detailed analysis to piece together a comprehensive overview of the interlocking components.

At the same time, as a small community relatively untouched by positive cases of COVID-19, Centre has cemented strong relationships with local and state health departments and our regional medical center, Ephraim McDowell Health. This will provide for better access to healthcare, should it be needed, as well as testing and general treatment.

SOCIAL CONTRACT

What became clear through our scenario planning efforts is that while much is out of our control, our planning will succeed to the degree that we are all committed to its success. In other words, it will only work if we all help to make it work.

In anticipation of the return to campus, we would remind all members of the community that we each have a responsibility to our own health and the health of each other, and we must commit to following all recommendations and guidelines to realize our shared desire to live and learn together on campus.

This should be considered nothing short of a social contract we are making with one another, as we work together to be smart and healthy. To make this experience not just good but even better, this will include a pledge to follow all relevant CDC guidelines as well as local and state recommendations for health and safety, which may include use of PPE beyond just masks in some settings, social distancing, sensitivity to issues of density, and the possibility of a closed campus perimeter.

We fully intend to manage the fall with great care and attention through testing and tracing, and we will be providing additional information about plans for baseline and ongoing testing protocols, use of a COVID-19 tracing app being developed by our ITS staff, increased campus cleaning procedures, the opening of a new seating area for dining, staggered meal schedules, and other similar actions.

Anticipating the potential inevitability of positive COVID-19 cases, we have also already identified procedures for isolation and quarantine, and have designated residential space approved by local and state health officials for those who may test positive.

We feel especially prepared for this possibility, having successfully followed an isolation protocol in early February recommended by the Kentucky Department for Public Health for students returning to campus in late January from parts of Asia. All involved remain safe and healthy and were able continue their academic work uninterrupted, with no negative impact whatsoever to the broader campus community.

THE BLOCK SCHEDULE AND COVID-19 SIGNATURE SERIES

When announced on April 20, Centre became one of the first colleges in the nation to imagine an innovative framework for the fall we called CentreBlocks. We remain confident that this block schedule, focusing on just two courses at a time each over a roughly seven-week period, will help us create a new normal for learning and instruction that continues to meet our high standards for academic excellence.

The block schedule will not only ease the return to the academic year by reducing anxiety and allowing flexibility in uncertain times but also allow us to be nimble should there be a need to shift gears, in either direction, in terms of in-person or remote teaching should circumstances dictate. Above all, CentreBlocks fosters a schedule in which faculty will be teaching fewer students in each block, allowing for even closer interaction and personal attention that will help develop stronger bonds in the process. Centre students will have less mental shifting among subjects as a result, reducing stress and helping for an easier transition to the new academic year.

As well, students were able to select from 27 new or revised courses for the fall that assess the pandemic through specific disciplinary lenses as part of our COVID-19 Signature Series. Whether this is looking at the genetics of the coronavirus, the chemistry of vaccine and treatment development, the history of the Spanish Flu, or the implication of the pandemic for financial models, education, or public health policy, Centre students have myriad ways to explore the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted life as we once knew it.

SUMMER “TEST RUN” FOR THE FALL

For 30 years, Centre has been the proud host of the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP), the largest such pre-college program in the nation for rising high school seniors. As approved recently by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, Centre will welcome five groups of scholars over as many weeks in groups of 100-125 in a modified summer program starting June 28.

Planning for this is also well underway, and we are confident that the experience will complement our broader planning preparations, since many of the protocols and approaches we are imagining for the fall will get a test run this summer, putting us in a unique position to be even better prepared when our own students return.

CONTINUING EFFORTS

Much work remains to make the fall we hope for and anticipate a reality. Over the coming weeks, more detailed information will be provided about residence life, dining, move-in, orientation, and more. Our Coronavirus Information Center (available HERE) on the Centre College website remains the clearinghouse for all relevant news, and we will share material as well through email.

The strength of the Centre community is wide and deep, marked by an impressive degree of resilience, and we will be stronger for our efforts to find new ways to prepare our students for meaningful lives of learning, leadership, and service, and at a time when their contributions to the move the world forward are needed more than ever.

We encourage your questions and comments, and you should feel free to reach out to either of us directly or members of our senior staff.

Sincerely,

John A. Roush, President