Bethel University announces that it plans to resume residential, face-to-face classes in August, and is investing significant human and financial resources to accommodate COVID-19-related scenarios that could emerge. A spectrum of options will allow the university to make adjustments based on real-time information from federal, state and local authorities.
“We are preparing for every imaginable situation,” says president Gregg Chenoweth, Ph.D. “We know potential COVID-19 infections could affect many things on campus, so we are focused on mitigation while preparing for that possibility. We are also working hard to make sure plans are adaptable so they can address a variety of scenarios.”
Campus leaders expect to complete scenario preparations by early July. To support this effort, the university is installing live-stream technology in many classrooms so that, in the case of quarantine, students can keep pace in real time. Several Bethel-owned houses are being reserved for quarantine lodging, with full meal service. Expanded mental health counseling (either in-person or via telehealth) is planned to be offered to help ease student anxiety. Additionally, the university is considering modifications to chapel schedules and meal delivery, among other things, like temperature and symptom screenings for students, faculty and staff, COVID-19 testing and increased sanitizing of campus spaces.
“Our students’ desire to return to campus is strong!” Chenoweth says. “They want normalcy. They want career preparation, and the fun and character formation of shared life in community. We can construct a safe environment for that, balanced with public health mitigation for the masses, and care for individuals with acute concerns.”
The Dean of the University’s nationally-recognized School of Nursing, Dr. Deb Gillum, who also serves on Bethel’s Emergency Management Team, projects confidence that students can be safe. She notes that, this spring, Bethel faculty and staff have continuously been in close contact with local health experts to ensure that nursing students safely finished their clinical experiences and fulfilled the academic requirements for their degree.
“Having a safe plan for our students is paramount,” Gillum says. “It has been our focus this spring, and we can apply what we’ve learned to our campus plan, so that all students can safely return in the fall,” she says, adding that mitigation efforts are in place to significantly reduce risk to students.
Consulting on Bethel’s mitigation is Dr. Hope Jordan, a Bethel Trustee and medical doctor who is helping the university scenario plan for various learning modalities which limit, as much as possible, risk to students.
Bethel is already in a second phase of returning employees to work on campus, which includes a number of COVID-19 protection measures such as providing masks, installing hand sanitizers and plexiglass barriers in high density conversation spaces, employee screening procedures, and workplace disinfection, all based on CDC guidelines.
For a video message from Chenoweth about Bethel’s plans for fall, as well as information about Bethel’s response to COVID-19 and how the university is supporting students and families during this time, visit BethelUniversity.edu/StrongerTogether.