Marietta College announces plans for in-person learning this fall

Students sitting outside on campus

Marietta College President Bill Ruud announced today that the fall semester will begin Aug. 17 — three days earlier than originally planned — for in-person learning. The semester will end with final exams on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

The change takes advantage of better weather earlier in the year and situates classes in a time frame when experts expect lower rates of COVID-19 cases, Ruud said.

“As we have said repeatedly, the safety and well-being of all Marietta College students, faculty and staff is our highest priority,” Ruud said. “We have included a good cross-section of faculty, staff and students to gather multiple ideas on what the fall semester should look like when we open. At the same time, we are relying on the best health and safety guidance that is available at this time in controlling the spread of COVID-19.”

The plan, which requires classes to be conducted on Labor Day and on the two days of the traditional fall break, was approved by the College’s Board of Trustees last week.

At this time, President Ruud said the College has not made a final decision on when the spring semester will begin.

“Right now, we are being flexible about the spring start, so we can evaluate any impact a potential second wave of COVID-19 might have on the nation and our region,” Ruud said. “Our plan is to provide some spring options later in the fall semester to help with everyone’s planning.”

President Ruud announced the 2020-21 academic year plans during a virtual town hall meeting earlier today. Ruud was joined by Provost Janet Bland, Vice President for Student Life & Diversity Richard Danford, McCoy Professor of Art Jolene Powell, Athletics Director Larry Hiser and Student Body President Katie Kitchen.

“Our returning students and our new students have told us repeatedly that finding a safe way to provide on-campus, in-person education is their preference,” Bland said. “These changes to our semester help us protect the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff, while continuing to provide the high-quality educational experience that generations of Marietta College students have enjoyed.”

Bland said the plans include some online component to every course during the fall semester. There are also some faculty members who may choose to offer dual delivery courses, which allows for in-person learning and online learning at the same time.

“As a small, liberal arts college, Marietta is showing off its flexibility and nimbleness to return to campus and offer in-person learning,” Bland said. “This is a chance for us to demonstrate the creative thinking and problem-solving skills embedded in a liberal arts education to our students for years. I’m proud of the hard work and planning that have gotten us to this point.”

In addition to the calendar changes, the College will announce later this summer its approaches to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Since the winter break will be at least six weeks — and could be as long as 12 weeks, depending on any spikes in COVID-19 cases — the College is looking at offering online classes to help fill the void. The Career Center is also beginning discussions with employers about internship possibilities.

President Ruud said the College is also looking at how all students, faculty and staff on campus will be tested for COVID-19 before classes begin, while also conducting spot testing throughout the semester.

Also, all students, faculty and staff will have access to disposable masks and there are an increased number of hand sanitizer stations set up all over campus. Everyone will be required to wear a mask while they are on campus until they are in their residence hall room or office.

“Right now, our immediate focus is on how we safely have 1,200 students return to campus, provide each of them with the quality education that generations of Pioneers are accustomed to receiving, while also making sure our students and employees are safe,” President Ruud said. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be completed between now and August 17, but we will be ready to welcome everyone back.”

Key dates for the 2020-21 academic calendar include:

  • Monday, Aug. 17 — First day of classes
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17 — Last day of classes
  • Wednesday, Nov. 18 — Final exams begin
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24 — Last day of final exams
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25 — Winter break begins