On Wednesday, Governor Andy Beshear, amid rising COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, had to make some tough decisions.
One of those decisions had to do with the education sector in Kentucky, and therefore Madison County. One aspect of education Beshear spoke of was public universities “pledging” to teach their students 100% virtually starting Monday, Nov. 23.
For Madison County’s two major colleges, Berea College and Eastern Kentucky University, this is not too big of a change from their original plan.
EKU’s last day of the Fall 2020 semester was slated to be Nov. 25; Berea College’s last day was slated to be Nov. 24.
Berea College, which as of Nov. 19 has zero students in isolation and three faculty members in isolation according to their COVID-19 dashboard, currently has 52% of their student population on campus.
President Roelofs explained faculty has been urged to comply with the pledge to have all classes virtual by Monday. However, since the last day of classes is Tuesday, he said there may be some faculty who do not have enough time to adjust.
EKU, who according to their COVID-19 dashboard has 99 active cases, has their Fall semester ending on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Kristi Middleton, chief external affairs officer, explained EKU will be all virtual on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24. Middleton said approximately 30% of courses which would normally have been held face-to-face had turned into virtual-only classes.
The other 70% fluctuates between in-person classes and hybrid classes, where there is some face-to-face time but also virtual learning. EKU is also having ‘moveout’, where students remove their items from their dorms for the long break, during this time. And it will be continuing on as normal.
Middleton mentioned all finals, which are scheduled to happen during Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, will be held remotely as well.
Those students at EKU who do not have anywhere to go, do have the opportunity to stay at EKU over the break.
Middleton said this year all housing assignments are staying open year round. This means if a student is in a current housing assignment they can stay during the break, they just need to work through it with the housing office to make sure they are registered.
EKU will also have food services open on campus for dining options for students. There will be some periods during the break where dining facilities will be closed but there will still be options.
Berea College, according to President Roelofs, has approximately 70 students who do not have anywhere else to go and will be staying on campus. He explained those students will be assigned paid positions so they can earn their cost for room and board. For food options each student who is staying on campus during the break will be required to stay on the full meal plan.
With the uncertainty which comes with COVID-19, the future is not set in stone. However, Middleton said EKU is still going with their original plan for Spring 2021.
This plan is to keep about 30% of the normally in-person classes as fully online with the remainder being hybrid classes with some portions in-person and some virtual. She explained right now is time for students to sign up for Spring 2021 classes and they are aware of whether or not the classes will be online or not when they apply for the class.
“The governor’s orders do not extend to when we had planned to re-open in January, but certainly a reasonable person would have to acknowledge the possibility the situation will be no better by then and perhaps worse,” Roleofs said. “We are therefore doing contingency planning for a later re-opening, or going all virtual, for the first part of the Spring 2021 semester.”