Goucher College will conduct the upcoming fall semester entirely online, the college’s president Kent Devereaux announced on Friday, citing recent increases in some of the state’s coronavirus metrics.
“The Fall Reopening Task Force explored many options before coming to this difficult, but necessary decision,” Devereaux said in a statement. “We all want to be living and learning together as a community, as is the Goucher tradition. However, we cannot ignore the scientific data that has guided us throughout this process.”
Goucher had hoped to welcome students and staff back to campus this fall, but coronavirus data trends over the past month do not meet the criteria for returning to campus set by the Fall Reopening Task Force, Devereaux said.
“From the start of this pandemic, I have made it very clear that at Goucher, the safety of our students, faculty, and staff comes first, and that we would rely upon the very best public health advice and science to guide our decisions,” he said.
The college began planning two months ago for a fall return to campus, when the state’s coronavirus data was showing promising declines in some metrics, Devereaux said.
In late May through mid-June, the number of coronavirus cases that Maryland reported per day was decreasing.
After reaching 1,286 new cases on May 28, the daily case count fell to 260 on June 18. But newly reported cases began to climb again after that. On Friday, the state reported 1,169 new cases, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s COVID-19 Case Map Dashboard.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations also declined for more than two months after peaking at 1,711 on April 30, and reached a low of 385 on July 10. But those, too, have been on the rise, reaching 590 on Friday.
The recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has mostly been fueled by a rise in the number of acute care patients, while the number of intensive care patients has been declining. Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday suggested the trend might be attributed to the growing number of young people testing positive for coronavirus.
The majority of Goucher students will study from home this fall, but the college will be offering limited residence hall availability for students who have a “critical need for on-campus housing,” Devereaux said.
Those students will be allowed to live on campus, but will still attend courses online and will be required to adhere to campus health guidelines.
Goucher will send out an application for on-campus housing and limited dining options for the fall on Aug. 3. Applications will be due by Aug. 6 at 5 p.m.
Devereaux said that faculty are working to adapt to online instruction ahead of the fall semester.
“Faculty have been thoughtfully planning for rich online learning and participating in ongoing professional development training all this summer and working with their peers to create dynamic online courses,” he said.
Faculty will teach online courses as either synchronous or asynchronous, according to the college’s website.
Synchronous learning involves students and instructors being online at the same time for lectures, discussions and presentations. Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, can include pre-recorded lectures and other lessons not happening in real time.
Goucher will send out updated bills and financial aid letters “as quickly as possible” and remove room and board charges from student accounts.
The college has also delayed its initial billing due date until Aug. 17 “to give students and families more time to make final decisions,” Devereaux said.
Goucher will hold a virtual town hall meeting for students and parents at 5 p.m. on Friday. A recording of the meeting will be available afterward on the college’s website.
Devereaux added that the college’s planning for a return to campus “has not been in vain” and he awaits a time when it is safe for everyone to connect in person once again.
“When it is safe for our community to return, we will be ready, and I look forward to greeting each of you on Van Meter Highway and reflecting on this moment in history together,” he said.
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