Centre plans to return to in-person activities for fall 2021

BY MICHAEL STRYSICK

Centre College Chief Communications Officer

Given prospects for safer and healthier conditions by late summer, Centre College is planning for a return to normal campus life for its 2021 fall semester, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 30.

In making the announcement to the campus community on March 17, President Milton Moreland thanked everyone for their “perseverance through these challenging times” and also reflected on the difficulties of the past year.

“The human toll has brought significant grief, and the wide path of this disease’s destruction has stretched in so many ways, robbing us of our health, sense of safety, and overall well-being,” he wrote. “Even more, the impact has been both physical and emotional.”

Moreland was particularly sensitive to the impact on students. “You have lost experiences and opportunities, including landmark moments meant to highlight new chapters and exciting stages in your lives,” he acknowledged.

An average 85 percent of enrolled students at Centre have been living and learning on campus this academic year, taking a combination of in-person and hybrid classes. With the return of warmer weather, a number of classes take place outdoors under large canopy tents set up across campus.

A rigorous testing protocol has helped to monitor the generally limited number of positive cases, many of which have been asymptomatic.

Since August 1 of last year, more than 14,000 student tests have been administered, with a cumulative positivity rate of 0.77 percent. Faculty and staff have completed approximately 4,200 tests, with a 0.52 percent positivity rate.

Because contact tracing is conducted by Centre staff, all of whom are trained through a program offered by Johns Hopkins University, positive cases are addressed immediately. While Centre has dealt with a limited number of outbreaks, all have been quickly contained and have not interfered with campus activity.

Many staff are continuing to work remotely, but planning is underway to determine when this might change in advance of the fall. The increased availability of vaccines will be a key factor in determining any modification.

All Centre faculty and staff fall under Phase 1C, and nearly 100 of Centre’s 432 employees have already been fully vaccinated. Many others have already received their first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or are scheduled for the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

College officials are also hopeful that the recent directive from President Joe Biden to begin vaccinating all adults over 18 beginning May 1 will include Centre students prior to the end of final exams on May 19.

Of course, changing conditions may alter these plans, but President Moreland believes there is every reason to be optimistic.

“While it remains to be seen what the ‘new normal’ will actually be,” he said, “Centre College intends this coming fall to resume all the elements of the Centre experience for which we are known. This includes small in-person classes, close interaction between students and faculty, a sense of community through shared purpose, and an intense focus on preparing our graduates to move the world forward by leading lives of learning, leadership and service.”