St. Joseph Hall, Chestnut Hill College

by Sue Ann Rybak

With schools around the country deciding how to reopen for students in the fall, Kevin Hearn, a spokesperson for Chestnut Hill College (CHC), said the college would implement a low-density hybrid model, with a combination of virtual and in-person learning.

He said the hybrid model reflects the college’s continued “commitment to being in front of students,” providing valuable in-person instruction while trying to “adhere to the ever-changing guides” concerning group size, proximity, and social distancing.

While some colleges and universities are only implementing the low-density hybrid model in some programs, Hearn said CHC “is trying to be very dynamic and unique in its approach” by allowing faculty members to make decisions based on the needs of the students and the content the instructor is covering.

“Chestnut Hill College is committed to making students and community safety our priority,” he said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are changing plans and revising policy based on the most available science and data and the not opinion or what people believe is in their best interest.

“In this global pandemic, we are really trying to understand where our responsibilities are from class to the courts to hallways on campus.”

Hearn said college plans to provide face-to-face instruction. When the l=Local asked if the college will be open if the state is in the yellow phase, he said the governor would make that decision.

“CHC, Penn, Villanova [and other colleges and universities] are not going to be given the latitude to make those campus-wide decisions based on [the state or city’s] green versus yellow phase. We will have to abide by the governor’s regulations.”

Hearn said he hopes the state guidelines would allow the school to provide face-to-face instruction in some capacity. CHC created a COVID-19 task force to implement safety policies and consider the school’s plan to provide quality instruction under a variety of circumstances. He said the college is trying to plan for “more than a handful of scenarios,” but at the same time, “trying to be forward-thinking and ready for any possible outcome.”

On July 10, The Central Athletic Collegiate Conference (CACC), to which Chestnut Hill College belongs, announced it  had canceled the Fall sports season. The college is having conversations with the CACC and other institutions about moving fall sports to the spring and the challenges it proposes.

Chestnut Hill College plans to start classes on August 31 and for students to move-in on August 29 and 30. Students will be given an assigned time; restrictions will be placed on the number of people allowed on campus and the amount of time they can help students move-in.

Hearn said the college has not decided if they will be taking temperatures or doing other testing that day. He said it a “perfect example” of community at large. policies “not written in stone because of the ever-changing guidelines.” He added that the college is evaluating and trying to incorporate policies that other institutions have learned since the pandemic began.

As of publication, CHC’s undergraduate academic calendar for the fall of 2020 states that students will not be returning to school after Thanksgiving. Classes will resume November 29, and finals will be held from December 14 to the December 18. Hearn said the CDC’s as indicated that people are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because their will be an increase in travel and social gatherings.

“If our primary concern is on the education [and health] of our students young and old; it’s not a reasonable risk to take,” Hearn said.

He added that the extra two weeks will allow the faculty to make any necessary change to the academic calendar.  Hearn said the Chestnut Hill College has “to be mindful” and of everyone, not just students, but faculty, staff and the community at large. As of today, Spring classes are scheduled to start on January 11, 2021.

For more information about the college’s fall reopening plan, go to https://www.chc.edu/campus-plan-fall-2020.

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