President David Wilson hosted a virtual town hall meeting with several members of the administrative team to share strategies on staying safe during the pandemic, recommendations for the holiday season, and most importantly; the university’s plan to reopen for the spring 2021 semester.
With the fall 2020 semester coming to a close, the spring 2021 Campus Reopening Committee has reviewed how the university tackled COVID-19 this semester with 300 students residing in university housing and how they can expand that to make a plan for the spring.
“We are planning for the spring of 2021, and any plan that we put forth in this environment is subject to being revisited because COVID-19 will have the last word,” Wilson said.
The proposal for the spring 2021 semester entails a hybrid model with approximately 80 percent of remote courses and limited face-to-face instruction in lab-based courses. Due to the necessity for students to physically attend class depending on their academic course, certain majors are being considered for hybrid and face-to-face courses.
With a potential of 1,600 total students engaging in hybrid and face-to-face instruction, the priority majors are:
350 Civil Engineering and Transportation students.
250 upper-level Science and Medical Technological students.
250 School of Global Journalism and Communications students.
200 School of Architecture and Planning students.
200 Fine and Performing Arts students.
100 Screenwriting and Animation students.
80 upper-level Nursing students.
70 Family and Consumer Science students.
72 Military Science students.
On top of raising the number of students participating in face-to-face instruction, the university plans to increase the number of students in residence halls up to 1,000 students. In addition to housing students in Baldwin Hall, Cummings House, Harper-Tubman House, Marble Hall Gardens, and HH Midtown Apartments, the Office of Residence Life and Housing plans to occupy Rawlings Hall and Blount Towers.
Kevin Banks, vice president of student affairs, explained students’ extenuating circumstances and their academic majors will be taken into consideration when determining who will receive housing next semester.
“The students in the designated majors that you saw will have priority for housing, that may be on campus housing and or our apartments because we have a limited number of apartments,” Banks said.
The approximated 1,000 students will begin to move on campus Jan. 23 with the same process as the fall semester with scheduled appointments and a limited number of students moving in at one time. The spring housing application will open to students on Dec. 1.
“We will have a process set aside for students with extenuating circumstances where we’ll have instructions on the housing website for them to know how to access that,” Banks said.
All students who will regularly be on campus this spring must participate in on-campus testing daily or twice a week. The university will primarily be using antigen tests with PCR, polymerase chain reaction, as recommended by the Maryland Department of Health and the Baltimore City Health Department.
Throughout the 10 weeks of testing in the fall, only 17 students and employees have tested positive for COVID-19 out of the more than 4,600 total tests. If the on-campus positivity rate were to reach 5 percent of the total cases, the university would be susceptible for an automatic review and lead to a possible closure. Other indicators will be taken into consideration such as the national positivity rate, 7-day average, and local hospitalizations.
In terms of the academic year, the spring semester will be held from Feb. 1 to May 14, without any breaks. Many students were surprised to learn there would be no Spring Break this year, but Provost Lesia Crumpton-Young announced the university will initiate rest days this semester to make up for the break that was taken away.
“To prevent movement back and forth on campus, we are not going to have Spring Break,” Crumpton-Young said, “but we will introduce what we’re calling Rest Days throughout the semester, and those will be on your course syllabus when you begin class, so you’ll know exactly when those days are.”
During these unpredicted times, Morgan has worked tirelessly to tend to members of the Morgan community while keeping everyone safe throughout this pandemic.
According to Wilson, the plan for the spring 2021 semester is susceptible to change based on the state of the nationwide pandemic by the time the semester is scheduled to begin.
“With the circumstances that we are working with here, we wish we could accommodate everyone who had a special extenuating circumstance,” Wilson said.