By Danny Priest
While the fall semester has just reached its halfway mark and Springfield College has managed to contain Covid-19 and keep students on campus, plans for the spring are already in motion.
The College has been working diligently to lay out a plan for the spring semester that keeps students on-campus and virus free.
The decision has been made that barring any unforeseen spikes of the Coronavirus during winter break, the spring semester will begin on Monday, Jan. 25.
This return date is a week later than the typical time students would return to campus following the time off.
The semester is slated to end on Wednesday, May 5. This would allow for the traditional end of semester schedule to remain the same.
Thursday, May 6 would be a reading day. Friday, May 7, Monday, May 10, and Tuesday, May 11 would all be exam days. Wednesday, May 12, would be the make-up exam day and the final day of the semester.
Similar to the fall, students would return in a staggered move-in process, they would be tested upon arrival and the first week of classes would be conducted remotely to isolate any Covid-19 cases.
Pushing back the start of the semester allows for adaptation if things change and also allows students a little more time to recuperate after a fall semester with few breaks.
The biggest change that will occur with the spring semester is the removal of spring break.
“What we have agreed to is we have removed spring break week. We are concerned from a public health standpoint about having student’s go-away for spring break, going into areas that could be hot-spots, and we had lots of discussions about the value and the need for breaks along the way, because that’s a long stretch of 15-weeks to start and end the semester without any break,” said Mary Ann Coughlin, the Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.
In an attempt to offset the removal of spring break, the school is creating ‘Wellness Days’ which will be an effort to have a day completely removed from academics to give students a break over the course of the 15-week semester.
No classes will be held on those days and the hope is that no major exams, papers or assignments will be due or scheduled for the day right after.
Wednesday, February 24 and Wednesday, March 10 have been identified as the two wellness days in the spring semester. Additionally, Friday, April 2 will be a day off to create a long weekend that coincides with the Easter holiday and Passover.
“We really want to have the breaks be true breaks,” said Coughlin. “We try not to schedule classes, we’ve had discussions about trying to make them true breaks so that there isn’t a killer exam right after. Of course, that’s all individual scheduling up to faculty, but we’ve had that discussion.”
Ted France is the Faculty Senate President, Co-Chair of the Department of Physical Education and Health Education and a Professor of Physical Education on campus. He echoed Coughlin’s sentiment that the ‘Wellness Days’ should be true days off.
“We don’t want to be booking on a Thursday, that then forces students to use that day off in an academic way. I think every department and every faculty member is going to have to look at their schedule throughout the semester,” France said.
“That’s going to be the tough part because it’s a new schedule and most of us have our schedules laid out academically to progress a certain way, so we got to get back in there and look at how we’re using that time,” he added.
The decisions for the spring have been driven primarily by Public Health guidance and will be subject to change up until the day students arrive on campus.
“We’ve been trying to listen very closely to our Public Health faculty who are giving us the best guidance they can have right now, and of course everything changes on a dime with Covid,” Coughlin said.
“These are just the best plans that we can make right now based upon where we’re at right now. So, if Public Health changes, our plans to start could change and how we might start could change,” she added.
As for how campus life will look come the spring, those determinations have yet to be made. Any decisions regarding athletic seasons, guest policies on campus and large gatherings will have to coincide with decisions made by the state government.
Classes will continue to function in a hybrid format. However, this time around, the college is more prepared for this design, so the hope is students will find picking a schedule to be an easier task.
“What we’re working on right now is clearer descriptions for students about the formats of courses that will be laid out and sent to students prior to registering for classes,” Coughlin said.
“So, students can see the format that their classes are going to be in and it can help to shape the schedule that they want. That doesn’t mean that every student is going to be able to get 100 percent online or 100 percent all face-to-face because that depends upon their major and how the courses are structured,” she added.
With a semester of hybrid learning already under their belts, both students and faculty can look forward to being more properly prepared and ready for how the spring semester will look.
The bottom line is none of these decisions or plans are final, and the College will have to remain ready to adapt as it has for the past seven months now.
“If I have learned anything through our pandemic planning together, it has been that things shift and change on a dime and we have to be able to do that,” Coughlin said.
“I think we have a pretty good campus to call audibles. That’s probably why we’re doing as well as we have,” France said of how things have gone so far.
“That, and when you think about our mission, we’ve been focused on caring for people since the inception of the institution. Every decision that’s being made is being made with that lense. How are we taking care of our student’s, our faculty, our college community and the community around us,” he added.
While getting through the fall will continue to be priority number one, a steady plan for the spring is something everyone on campus can look forward to moving forward.
Photo: Springfield College