Coronavirus: Wittenberg provides reopening details, fall start date

Wittenberg University’s president announced that in-person classes will start on Aug. 17 - a week earlier than originally scheduled.

There will be no fall break as in-person instruction will end on Nov. 24, and the semester will finish out with remote instruction and assessment after the Thanksgiving holiday, President Michael Frandsen said in a release.

“After examining multiple scenarios, we determined that shifting our academic calendar to begin and end earlier was in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff, and their continued health and wellbeing,” he said. “In a traditional year, students would typically leave campus for Thanksgiving and then return to complete the semester. By ending the formal semester on Nov. 24, our students will only need to travel once, which we believe is best for their health and safety.”

Frandsen said there are 425 new first-year students enrolled for the fall. There are about 1,380 total undergraduate students enrolled for the fall, which is down from last year’s 1,577 enrolled students, according to the university’s website.

An 18-member Health and Safety Working Group has been researching best practices for in-person operations since early May, according to the university. They have finalized Phase I recommendations and have begun Phase II.

“Phase I was really about understanding and assessing what protocols were needed for shared expectations in terms of building community around public health, and all of which is 100% guided by what we’re being told from all of the agencies we report to,” said Gary Williams, vice president and director of athletics and recreation, as well as the co-chair of the COVID-19 Response Team.

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Phase I guidelines for employees returning to work and campus guests include daily temperature checks, face coverings, social distancing, hand washing, keeping personal work surfaces clean and sanitized and completing a health questionnaire, the release said.

“Getting from phase I to phase II is assessing how the community is responding to protocols and the public health of Clark County and City of Springfield,” Williams said.

Williams said phase II is a gradual expansion on many things including re-welcoming visitors, access to facilities and increased staff members, and hopes to be at full operations by phase III.

“We’ll find small ways in June/July to get campus acclimated to what this new normal is going to look like,” Williams said. “When we get to that final phase, we are facing a reality that we need to be prepared to provide a safe living environment.”

Some of what the university is doing to reopen include accommodating housing adjustments for single-room requests, reconfiguring offices and classrooms to meet social distancing, establishing protocols for dining halls and other facilities, and wearing masks, the release said.

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The university will provide those on campus with face coverings and health information by using signs that will be posted to help enforce guidelines, Frandsen said.

“Community is central to the experience we offer but bringing our campus back together safely must be our top priority,” he said.

Although the university hopes to offer as many in-person classes as possible, they are also examining hybrid options.

“We will need to be open to providing in-person and online learning using both synchronous and asynchronous delivery capabilities,” said Provost Michelle Mattson.

For incoming students in the fall, the Office of Student Development is working to apply a staggered move-in/orientation approach, Frandsen said. These details will be announced by July 1.

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