In recent weeks, Colleges and Universities across the state of Illinois began to announce plans to reopen their campuses in the fall. A recently released North Central College plan is a 22-page document detailing the many challenges that will factor into the school’s decision to reopen.
The college put together a large group of committees and subcommittees with specific areas of focus to consider when it comes to reopening
Dr. Hammond: “There’s a broad range of these teams, each of which has representatives from the faculty, from the staff and administration working together to solve these problems to make it possible for us to welcome our students and our faculty back on campus in August. There’s of course also external challenges and that is where does our society stand in terms of infections and cases and importantly, the Governor’s directives with regards to what is permissible are some of the externalities that present the challenges we have to operate within.”
A Case for Optimism?
The fall planning document goes through dozens of protocols and mitigation strategies being considered in areas like cleaning and disinfecting, testing and monitoring, classroom configurations, facility use and residence hall assignment to name a few.
With the state of Illinois entering phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan, the 30 member north central college COVID-19 institutional response team and President Hammond are optimistic at the prospect of returning to on campus learning this august.
Dr. Hammond: “I think cautiously optimistic is the right phrase right now. It’s certainly the progress the state is making through its phases is making progress and we’re certainly encouraged to see that and of course we are proceeding with caution. We are optimistic that we will be able to welcome a community back in August. But throughout we are going to be putting the health and safety of our students, as well as our faculty and staff right at the forefront of all our decision making.”
Importance of In-Person Instruction
While other high learning institutions across the state have already stated their intentions to reopen. North Central will make its decision independently, while still monitoring the plans put out by other Illinois schools.
While nobody knows for certain what the status of the covid-19 outbreak will be this fall, President Hammond remains adamant about the importance of in person instruction to the college experience.
Dr. Hammond: “When I think about the possibility of not being on campus my thoughts go out to the students because we serve the traditional aged college student in primarily in person, residential context. There’s a lot of magic that happens with that human interaction. The connection between faculty and student that provide inspired instruction. So the thought of extending the remote model, which certainly our faculty stepped up to the plate and delivered in the spring as we had to transition with the pandemic. But that’s not the experience they want. We talked to students, we surveyed them and they want to come on campus for the college experience.”
Connection to Naperville
President Hammond feels the connection that North Central has to Naperville and the resources in the community are a vital part of the North Central College plan to return to campus.
Dr. Hammond: “The fact that North Central College resides here in Naperville and partners with Naperville community in so many different ways is very important to our strategy and our solution. We are highly connected to all of our first responders. We are connected to experts through the Edward-Elmhurst health system. We’ve partnered as we’ve shown in the past with the city of Naperville, even opening up our campus to the prospect of potentially requiring quarantine for first responders. The partnerships with Naperville are so varied and important to us and we are part of that community and that is absolutely part of our thinking as we plan for bringing students, faculty and staff back on campus in August.”
Fall Schedule Options
The fall planning document also discusses three options for reopening, the first being the fall semester beginning and ending as scheduled from August 24th– December 15th.
The second would start classes on August 24th before ending in person coursework by thanksgiving and finishing the semester with remote learning.
The third option would see North Central start classes as late as September 14th and ending the first semester exams as late as December 23rd.
The school’s decisions regarding the academic calendar, mode of instruction delivery and housing should be made and announced by July 1st.
For Naperville News 17, I’m Justin Cornwell.
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