After taking into account multiple factors (i.e. our small size; our location; we are less likely to facilitate Covid-19 transmission [or other infectious pathogens for that matter] because unlike a residential campus we are not an incubator for infectious pathogens), the Deans Cabinet plans to resume in-person classes as scheduled on August 31, 2020. We will end residential face to face classes on November 24, two days before Thanksgiving to avoid possible heightened infection risk from returning staff, students, and faculty. The last week of class will be conducted online. In essence, what we are proposing is a hybrid model for the fall.
Of course, no one can predict with any degree of accuracy either the pattern of this Covid-19 pandemic or what the rate of infection in Beaver County (or anywhere else for that matter) will be in the fall. We believe we can, given today’s data points, resume face to face teaching safely. A level of risk is always present, and we believe that we will be able to implement the necessary changes to reduce our exposure to a manageable threshold. Additionally, we believe that if we can have face to face connections at the start of fall semester, even for just a few weeks, that will make transitioning to online (if that becomes necessary) more effective. Certainly our online experiences this past spring semester would have been radically different if we hadn’t had half a semester of residential instruction to get to know one another.
We will be putting a range of safety measures in place for fall semester to mitigate the risk of contagion. Plans on how to prepare for re-opening are being carried out by the Reopening Committee consisting of representatives from the various departments on campus as well as a student representative. Over these summer months, this committee has been implementing changes to class and campus operations such as (but not limited to) lunch, chapel, physical distancing, appropriate PPE, visitors, monitoring for cases of Covid-19, and contingency procedures for closing the campus should an outbreak occur.
Those who are immunocompromised or living in a household with such at risk individuals will be given off-site participation options. Trinity is investing in the technology that will allow immunocompromised students to join the residential classes remotely in real time if need be, as well as enable such faculty to teach a residential course remotely. This will be done via Smart Screens and web cameras.
The Deans Cabinet is aware of how limited our control is regarding how things will pan out in the fall. Government and health authorities could mandate that we go online before Aug 31 or anytime thereafter. Fortunately, we already had a significant online footprint before Covid-19 hit last semester and we demonstrated the capability to quickly pivot and shift modalities back in March. If need be, we can do so again.
Erika Moore, PhD
Trinity School for Ministry
Ambridge, PA 15003
July 21, 2020