Spring Semester Academic Calendar Adjusted due to COVID-19

Remote Learning Option and Delayed Start

Interview+with+student+life

Photo by Shaina Breeden

Senior Shaina Breeden and Junior Brooke DiCicco talk with Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Leslie Frere and Assistant Dean of Students Liz Howley about remote learning and the changes to the spring calendar.

Shaina Breeden and Brooke DiCicco

Bridgewater, Va. – Students and faculty will have the option to go remote in the spring, the spring semester start date will be delayed by a week and a winter break will replace spring break, according to an email sent by Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Leslie Frere on Monday, Nov. 2.

Making the Decision

Currently, between 300-400 students chose to do remote learning in the fall semester — leaving an estimated 800 on campus. The original plan for spring semester was that all remote students would return to campus this January, but Frere says the COVID landscape “has not changed much” since August. 

“We had every hope and dream that the world would go back to normal by January but that obviously has not happened,” said Frere.

The COVID operations team started meeting in September to begin to discuss spring semester’s calendar in relation to COVID. They started this discussion based on the stagnant COVID landscape. 

“For me I had already heard about JMU, VT and UVA and they were making plans for spring. So then, I thought, well, if they are making plans for spring, I’m pretty sure we are going to be making some similar plans,” said Frere. 

The College’s operations team waits for other, bigger schools to make their decisions in order to gauge possible mistakes. “Larger schools have to make these decisions first, because they have a lot more moving pieces,” said Frere. “We wait to get a pulse on what other people are doing and where maybe they have made mistakes, so that we can learn from them because we’re small enough that we are able to do that.”

The Nov. 2 email contains information that students and their families will need to make a decision about whether or not they decide to go remote in the spring. It also comes ahead of Student Life notifying students about housing selection.

“We set the deadlines in place because we have a lot of behind the scenes work we have to do,” Frere said. “We try to give students as much lead time and as much information as possible so that they can make good decisions, and that’s why we have to be hard and fast on some of these deadlines. We have to know how many people we are going to have to house so we can make as many people happy and comfortable.”

Remote Learning for Spring

There were two versions of the email. The two were almost identical in manner, but split students into two groups: current residential students and current remote learners. The emails announced that students would be able to continue remote learning if they wished, come back to campus, or begin remote learning for the spring semester. 

“We’re moving forward just as we did in the fall, for students to waive their residency and to engage in distanced learning. We will be following the same guidelines essentially that we did in August when we put that information out,” said Frere.

There will be prorated refund amounts if a student opts-out just like there was this semester, which lower as the semester goes on. 

Housing selection will go out in early December. Students are not guaranteed their same housing if they decided to opt-out of residency in the fall, due to possible changes such as having to empty residence halls for quarantine spaces.

“We have done really well with our rates of quarantine and isolation and I think there are students who want to come back to campus and they want to be here because things went better than they may have anticipated,” said Assistant Dean of Students Liz Howley.

One thing the administration has been hearing from students is that they are craving real life contact, so that might be one of the driving forces for students wanting to come back to campus. 

Faculty received emails about choosing to teach remotely in early October, but it may be a while until students hear if they have classes online in spring semester. One factor for faculty is that some are waiting on their K-12 school system’s decisions.

“School systems for kids, not college students, have not revealed their plans for spring. Assistant Dean Howley is working remotely because her kids are all virtual. I can come to campus some because my daughter is in Augusta County and goes to school two days a week,” said Frere. “I guarantee you, almost no one is not going to commit one way or the other until they know what’s going on with their kids because they have to figure out childcare.”  

There is no way of predicting how many students will remain on campus — how many may choose remote or how many who are remote will come back.

“If people want to be here, whether it is 20 or 2000, we’ll make it happen. If there is a small number of students on campus we may have to adapt but we would figure it out,” said Howley.

Spring Calendar

Bridgewater College will be delaying the start of the spring semester by almost a week. Registration will be moved to Monday, Jan. 11, and classes will start Tuesday, Jan. 12.

“The reason we are doing this is to give us a little more breathing room because we might need to do phased move-ins, we might need to go at a slower pace, we might need to do more individualized orientations for transfer students or first year students who were remote for their first semester,” said Frere. 

Bridgewater College will also be cancelling spring break. 

In place of spring break, there will be a winter break, which will feel more like a fall break. It will be Thursday, Feb. 25, and Friday, Feb. 26, essentially giving students and faculty a four-day weekend. 

In listening to other schools talk about cancelling spring break, Frere said it “just made sense.” 

Giving students an entire week off would be giving an opportunity for travel and other things that would be inconsistent with health guidelines, so they opted for a shorter winter break instead. 

“My opinion on spring break being cancelled is a good idea. A lot of other schools, like Roanoke for example, have cancelled their long breaks for this semester and I think they’re being generous by giving us a two-day break for spring semester [the winter break] so we can relax our minds and not get burnt out,” said sophomore Diamond Hawkins.

Sophomore Dolan Nethercutt agreed with Hawkins, though he will miss spring break. “It’s probably the best choice, and I know other colleges have cancelled their breaks. However, at the same time, we do need a break. I know they’re providing a two-day break, but I know it can cause a lot of people to get stressed out and tired. I think COVID-wise though, it’s the best decision,” said Nethercutt.

These changes will not affect the end of spring semester with classes ending on April 21 and graduation scheduled for May 1.