With plans already in place for online summer school and virtual orientation, administrators at Northeast Mississippi Community College have turned some of their attention to the upcoming fall semester.
Due to the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many factors to be considered, but currently plans are to have students back in classrooms at Northeast to begin the 2020 fall semester in August.
Faculty is preparing to present a more hybrid-style classroom experience that will feature more digital content. Also, plans to reduce the number of students in a classroom to adhere to distancing guidelines are being developed. Additional sections of classes which normally see a high volume of students will likely be added.
At Northeast, currently, registration for the fall semester is up 32 percent over this point in the process last year.
According to Northeast president Dr. Ricky G. Ford, while plans are being made to resume face-to-face instruction this fall, it won’t happen without adjustments.
“We’re excited about a return to some semblance of normalcy this fall,” Ford said, “but obviously, we will continue to monitor the statistics and keep the health and safety of our students, employees and visitors as our top priority.
“In order to do that, we’re considering a wide variety of adjustments to our regular fall calendar.
“Also, students will have the option of choosing a completely online, hybrid, or seated classroom schedule. This could alleviate concerns that students and parents may have about the transmission of COVID-19.”
Ford said the possibility of beginning the semester earlier in August in order to finish the week before Thanksgiving is being studied by members of his cabinet.
“We’re hearing there could be another spike in cases of the virus toward the end of the year,” Ford said. “Typically, we’re closed the week of Thanksgiving and we come back for only a week or two before we go on Christmas break.
“We believe we can save our students from another sudden transition from face-to-face to online classes if we start the semester earlier in order to eliminate those last two weeks before the Christmas holidays.
“We would also consider beginning the spring semester in late January or early February order to wrap it up by mid May.”
Ford also indicated the college’s five dormitories and the cafeteria would be open this fall, however, guidelines issued by the Governor’s Office closer to the beginning of August would have to be observed.
As far as athletics are concerned, a decision by the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges will likely come sometime in July.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Ford said. “We have a lot of work to do between now and August, but if the numbers continue to improve and we have the green light from Governor Reeves, we’ll be ready.”