Delaware State University, others plan for spring semester

With the spring semester approaching, Delaware State University plans to have at least the same number of students on campus as the fall semester, while other Delaware higher education institutions are on either side of the spectrum when it comes to bringing students back.

DSU has approximately 1,700 residential students — or 75% — on campus for the fall semester and is looking to at least keep that number level, said Carlos Holmes, a spokesman for the university.

The university is working with the nonprofit Testing for America, which helped DSU find a supplier for COVID-19 tests, as well as establish a testing protocol as it sought to bring students back this semester. Mr. Holmes said the university will consult with the nonprofit by late-November and “continue to tweak our plan for a safe return,” he said.

“We’re continuing to engage with the governor’s office and closely monitor the local and national positivity rates around the country, especially in our region, and in our state and in this county,” he said. “Our testing efforts, our hybrid instruction and our peer-to-peer accountability have proven effective.”

Of the 26,619 tests conducted at the school between July and Monday, a total of 71 have been positive, Mr. Holmes said.

No students are currently in isolation or quarantine, for which the university has a dorm set aside, he added.

University of Delaware

The University of Delaware will bring more students back next semester, with more face-to-face instruction planned, officials announced earlier this month. The university has had more than 430 positive cases since it began reporting them in late August, but new cases have fallen between last week and this week, from 47 the week of Oct. 18 to just seven so far this week.

The university will increase the amount of students living in residence halls to 60% capacity (about 4,000 students), up from 20% (or 1,300 students) this fall. Priority will be given to first-year students.

Because of physical distancing guidelines, spring classes with 50 or more students will be online, though smaller in-person breakout sessions will be offered where possible.

As the fall semester winds down, the university is gearing up to start the spring semester a week later — to “reduce campus activities during the flu season, provide more time for a longer move-in process and allow more campus activities to take place in warmer weather,” according to a news release.

“The vast majority of our students, faculty and staff have embraced the ‘Protect the Flock’ mindset to keep themselves and each other safe,” President Dennis Assanis said in a prepared statement last week. “Soon, we will be ramping up our surveillance testing program from 1,000 tests per week now to about 4,000 tests per week so we can quickly identify COVID-positive individuals and support them appropriately. These successes — and the culture of caring that is always a hallmark of the UD community — give us confidence to move forward with our plans to continue phasing in a more robust on-campus experience.”

Goldey-Beacom College

Goldey-Beacom College intends to offer a hybrid semester, with a mix of in-person and remote classes, said Janine Sorbello, a spokeswoman for the college. The college will be watching the public health landscape as the semester approaches, however.

The college had opted for an online fall semester, after events on other colleges campuses and rising positive cases.

Wilmington, Delaware Tech

Meanwhile, Wilmington University and Delaware Technical Community College both announced their intentions of continuing remote learning through the spring.

“According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state of Delaware, the daily numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases are increasing,” a letter posted on WilmU’s website reads. “For this reason, all courses will remain virtual through the spring 2021 semester.”

The university’s campuses and sites will also remain closed, and all services and business conducted remotely through the spring 2021 semester, according to the post.

“While this is clearly disappointing and frustrating to many students, their families, and college employees, this decision is made with health and safety, first and foremost, being our primary consideration,” Delaware Tech President Dr. Mark T. Brainard said in a prepared statement. “The timing of this announcement will allow us to spend these valuable weeks planning and preparing for next year.”

The fall semester was conducted similarly, with classes mostly done through distance learning, with access to skills labs.

When courses first went remote in March, the college created a virtual Student Support Center, where students have access remotely to financial aid advising, counseling and more, which its investment supports. Zoom capacity was also expanded, and wireless hot spots were created at all campus locations.

Wesley College

Wesley College, which is slated to be acquired by DSU by the end of June 2021, brought students back to campus for a mixture of in-person and hybrid learning during the fall.

Wesley’s CAG — COVID-19 Action Group — is working on the details for students’ safe return for the spring semester, said Laura Mayse Bigham, a spokeswoman for the college.

On-campus testing became available earlier this month through support from the state and DSU.

On Monday, the college reported that there is one positive case, one person quarantining on campus and 16 people quarantining off campus. Since March 2020, there have been 15 cumulative cases concerning students and staff.

“Though our numbers have been low and show a downward trend, we cannot get complacent,” President Bob Clark wrote in a letter to students last week. “COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationwide, but the measures we have implemented, and our culture of compliance are making a difference. I know that these challenging times have been difficult on many of us and have required many sacrifices and deviations from what we would have considered the norm, but they are necessary and critical in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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