The spring semester at Kutztown University will operate much like the current fall semester.
In a letter to the campus community sent out Monday, Oct. 12, Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, president, said the university will again offer both in-person and virtual options for students, a model in use this fall as a reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The spring semester will begin on Jan. 19. Students will not have a spring break, but instead will have five individual days off between Feb. 11 and April 20.
Finals will be held the week of May 3, and the semester will end May 8.
Advisement for spring courses begins Monday, Oct. 19, and registration begins Monday, Nov. 2.
"At this time, we expect a similar profile of course offerings for the spring as what is in place right now," Hawkinson's letter reads.
That means classes will be delivered in one of four ways:
Synchronized online classes, where the class will meet "live" at set days and times.
Online classes that are asynchronized, or don’t meet in real time.
Hybrid classes, where students will rotate in their classes between in-person with their professor or will engage with their class in real time from a computer.
"Students should be sure to look at the modality of the class they select so they know how the class is scheduled to be delivered," Hawkinson's letter says.
Kutztown's fall semester got off to a bit of a rough start.
A group of students, staff, alumni and community members circulated an online letter in early August criticizing the school's plans to reopen campus. Some members of the group held a protest just days before the start of the fall semester, claiming the university had not done enough to prepare.
Then, in the week following Labor Day, 70 students living off campus tested positive for the coronavirus. School officials said the positive tests were due to parties held in August.
The outbreak has dwindled, with only eight new cases reported last week, according to Kutztown's online dashboard. The university reported last month that about 1,000 students had left campus, costing the university more than $3 million in refunds.
Overall, the dashboard shows 67 active cases and 269 recoveries, and last month the college described the students' symptoms as mostly like a bad cold.
On Oct. 8, a virtual town hall was held by a group concerned with Kutztown's handling of the pandemic. Hawkinson was invited to take part, but did not attend.
Semester 'a success'
In the Oct. 12 letter, Hawkinson described the fall semester as a success.
"I often talk about fortitude and grit, and some may object to my mentioning of these attributes, but these are words that reflect who we are as a community," he wrote. "It is only because of the resolve and inner strength of our faculty, staff, students and broader community that we have been successful thus far in our reopening this fall for an on-campus experience for our students."
Hawkinson writes that the university remains determined to keep the campus open.
"As I stated in my August 3 remarks about our plans to reopen to an on-campus experience in the fall, Kutztown University is a part of a broader community, wherein many rely on us to continue our mission of providing a quality education for our students, and of serving our faculty, staff and broader community," his letter says. "Students do better in classes that are taught face-to-face and in real time with their professors, wherein they are living with their peers and sharing in on-campus experiences.
"We employ 900 employees, and many affiliated workers, and they and their families depend on us for their livelihood. We also are committed to supporting our local businesses."
Hawkison continued by saying the university must keep taking steps to ensure the safety of the campus and surrounding community.
"Much depends on us, but we must do it right," he said.
To that end, the school's emergency management team is working on updating the university's health and safety plan for the spring semester. He encouraged the campus community to provide feedback by contacting his liaison to the team, Amy Ridenour, at firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 23.
Details of the updated plan will be shared before students leave campus when the fall semester ends on Nov. 20.