Dear K Students and Families:
I write to provide a comprehensive update on our planning for the fall, with a focus on three important areas—student health and safety, course offerings and campus housing. Our priorities for fall planning are to protect student health and safety, and to provide a robust student experience, even in the midst of unusual circumstances.
We at K may be approaching these issues differently from other institutions due to our size, location and academic calendar. We are working to balance the desire for concrete information (about housing, for example) with the changing face of the pandemic. Our fall term classes start on September 14, later than many other institutions, and we will conclude the first term prior to Thanksgiving as always. This gives us time for preparation that may be unavailable to other colleges. Even so, our extended timeline for planning may cause anxiety as other institutions are announcing their plans while you still have decisions to make.
Our priority in planning for the fall is doing as much as possible to ensure student health and safety. We will continue to rely on current public health guidance as we make decisions. It is clear that physical distance will be a key element in preventing and mitigating the spread of the virus, along with related practices like hand washing, mandatory wearing of masks/face coverings, and monitoring our health. Campus custodial staff will employ enhanced cleaning practices throughout, and it is also clear that each of us who work and learn at K will have responsibilities for further sanitizing spaces that we occupy. As a community, we have a shared responsibility for engaging in these behaviors for the well-being of all.
To provide appropriate physical distance, classes will be offered in a variety of ways in the coming year. For the fall, we plan to offer courses in a hybrid of in-person and online components that will reflect a range of instructional formats, from those with significant in-person components to others that are completely virtual. The goal of this approach is to enable students to have interactive, relatively small classes in the K tradition whether they are able to physically access campus resources or must take their full course load from a distance. It also ensures that we can nimbly adapt to changes in public health that may occur during the term.
Now that the spring term has ended, faculty are working on details about which courses will be offered in which format. Faculty will also be spending time this summer refining the virtual aspects of courses, taking into account their experiences during the spring, survey and other student feedback, and information from colleagues, so that the educational experience is engaging and rigorous regardless of format. Information about the format for specific courses will be available by early August and students will have the opportunity to adjust their fall course schedules if needed. While there will be an array of online-only course options for the fall, students taking courses remotely will not be able to register for some courses with significant in-person components. In addition to the work faculty are doing to prepare courses for fall, we are also reducing classroom capacities and looking at traffic flow and time between classes to promote physical distance.
Student housing will be very different from previous years. We cannot safely have a full residential system, so we have to make difficult decisions. As mentioned in a recent communication, the College is prioritizing first-year students and visiting international students for campus housing. First-year students are a priority given the important process of acclimating to life at K. While we hope to accommodate sophomores who seek campus housing, we cannot guarantee that space will be available. I encourage sophomores to seek housing off-campus, whether in Kalamazoo or at home if you prefer to learn from there. In addition to providing needed certainty for planning, this will also enable sophomores to establish desired environments, including choice of roommates. Please also remember to opt-out of housing via the form by July 12, 2020.
While the current pandemic has created many challenges for all of us, I continue to be impressed by the commitment of every member of our community to do whatever it takes to make sure that the education of our students continues. Despite having to adjust to a different environment and to high levels of uncertainty, our single focus has not moved from our mission of preparing our graduates to better understand, live successfully within, and provide enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world. I will continue to communicate with you as the start of the fall term approaches and our plans evolve.
Jorge G. Gonzalez