Dear Students, Families, Faculty, and Staff,
By now, I am sure you have read or heard about the varying ways colleges and universities across the nation are approaching the fall semester in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming months. The options range from going completely online to the other end of the spectrum with normal operations on campus.
As you know, our COVID-19 Task Force has been planning and deliberating the best course of action for Randolph for many weeks and months now. The full Randolph experience involves being together behind the Red Brick Wall. This is reflected in the fact that while our students gave our faculty high marks for their work moving to online education this spring, they have communicated to us very clearly that they prefer to learn on campus.
Thus, as I have said before, our plan for the fall is to conduct classes on campus. However, we have made the decision to alter our fall academic calendar in order to minimize the highest predicted risk times for both COVID-19 and flu seasons, which will overlap. Under this new plan, we will begin classes on Aug. 24, which is one week earlier than originally scheduled. The last day before Thanksgiving break will be Nov. 20. Because we will be leaving for Thanksgiving break earlier, we will not have a fall break. Students will return home for the semester on Nov. 20. In addition, finals will be held online following the Thanksgiving break. This schedule allows us to conduct the majority of classes on campus and eliminates the risks associated with students traveling away from campus and returning shortly after, potentially bringing the coronavirus back with them. It also allows us to avoid having students on campus during what many expect will be a high-risk time in terms of both COVID-19 and the flu.
Our fall semester schedule will change as follows:
There are many details that are still being worked out, including when SUPER and STAR students will arrive on campus, as well as dates for international student arrival. We will provide more information about those dates in the coming weeks. In addition, decisions have not yet been made by our conference regarding athletics. Again, we must wait for further direction before making plans regarding sports.
We wanted to get this information to you as early as possible so that you can make the appropriate plans. We will be sending more information later as it relates to students, faculty, and staff individually. As we have said repeatedly, the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority, and every decision we make is based on that commitment. We have followed a deliberate approach in developing our plans for the new academic year and are relying on the best health and safety guidance available to us at this time. That guidance does change rapidly, however, and the course of the pandemic is unpredictable at best. Therefore, all of us must realize that our plans must remain flexible and adaptable as we move forward. I assure you that we will always put our community’s health first.
As I have said before, life on campus will change as we make the changes necessary to both comply with state requirements and also to keep our community safe and healthy. One area we are working on is coronavirus testing. We believe this will be an important part of our ability to keep our community safe, and while federal and state plans call for robust testing availability, it is not yet in place in our area. We are working to develop a plan to address this before school begins. Some other changes you may see include, but are not limited to:
I am sure you will have questions as we move forward, and we will do our best to provide additional details in the coming weeks. These are extraordinary times for all of us as we try to return to some sense of normalcy. If we have learned anything from the past few months, it is the need to stay nimble as the pandemic evolves and changes. We will remain vigilant in our efforts to stay abreast of the most current guidelines, and I appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation. While these are our current plans, they could change in the future depending on the course of the pandemic.
We have all made sacrifices over the past months, and I expect we will continue to do so in the near future. However, I am confident in our community’s commitment to providing the best possible educational experience for our students, and I believe we are prepared to handle whatever challenges await us in the fall. I look forward to welcoming all of you back home in August.
Brad Bateman, President