ATLANTA—Morehouse College announced Monday that students will continue learning remotely this fall, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Georgia and other states that many men of Morehouse call home. College officials have made no decision about re-opening the campus to students for the Spring 2021 Semester.
President David A. Thomas said the College has decided to postpone in-person instruction because he and the Board of Trustees are concerned about the spike in deadly cases of COVID-19 not only in the City of Atlanta and Fulton County, where Morehouse is located, but also in states where the College successfully recruits many of its students: California, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.
Currently, there are nearly 3.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and nearly 140,000 in Georgia. Fulton County is also tracking a rise in infections. Only 20 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Fulton County when Morehouse evacuated the campus in March 2020; now, more than 13,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the College’s home county.
“As much as I wanted to see the men of Morehouse return to campus for classes on Aug. 19, the spike in COVID-19 cases in Georgia and across the nation, warrants us to change course to protect the health and safety of Morehouse students, faculty, and staff,” Thomas said. “Many of our target enrollment areas are facing outbreaks. And as families use their summer vacation to travel both locally and out of state, Morehouse could not guarantee the well-being of our community for in-person instruction, even with the rigorous safety protocols that we were planning. I believe that continuing online learning is our most prudent path forward.”
Epidemiologists and public health officials have identified Miami, only 665 miles from Morehouse, as the new epicenter of the virus.
During the Fall 2020 Semester, most residence houses at Morehouse will remain closed, except for one facility that will be made available to some 40 international students and others in critical need of housing. Kilgore Student Center and the post office will re-open with strict sanitizing protocols. All faculty, staff, and students will be required to wear face masks and practice safe distancing while on campus.
Classes will be taught online from Aug. 19 through the end of finals, Nov. 20, with no fall break.
“Morehouse College is committed to maintaining the quality and continuity of our academic program, whether students are on campus or learning remotely,” Thomas said. “The online curriculum will be rigorous, engaging, and relevant to future careers. We will offer signature experiences and continue to build a sense of community online.”
To prepare for the Fall 2020 Semester of virtual learning, the entire Morehouse curriculum was uploaded onto a virtual platform, and faculty have worked over the spring and summer to develop lessons. The College has also invested in improving technology to accommodate virtual learning, and partnered with Microsoft to expand student access to new computers. Freshman, transfer students, and some upperclassmen will receive new devices. Hotspots will also be made available to students on a case-by-case basis.
New Student Orientation and Convocation will take place remotely, as will the College’s historic Crown Forum events, which feature speakers with social conscience and global perspective. Other virtual offerings will include: worship services, student activities, faculty office hours, and Career Services. The Campus Bookstore, though closed, will supply books and other supplies to students online. (Some professors may assign online materials.)
The Atlanta University Center (AUC) Woodruff Library will provide remote services to students and faculty, including online access to resources and collections, as well as virtual librarian support— not only to Morehouse students but also to those at Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University, who will also be learning remotely this fall.
All fall sports at Morehouse have been canceled, as well as Homecoming 2020, and international and domestic study-away programs. An on-campus Class of 2020 Commencement, however, is still being planned on campus for Dec. 13, 2020.
Morehouse will also offer a 10 percent discount on tuition plus select fees for the online Fall 2020 Semester. Fees for housing or other services that have already been paid will be refunded.
Members of the Morehouse Emergency Management Team (EMT) will continue working this summer and fall with state medical officials, public health experts, and scientists to create a plan to bring students, faculty, and staff members back to campus in February 2021. In addition, EMT members will meet regularly with counterparts at the AUC to develop universal safety protocols to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading on the campuses, located adjacent to one another in Southwest Atlanta.
“Since 1867, Morehouse College has been educating and developing global leaders,” Thomas said. “And today, Morehouse is particularly known for its focus on excellence and its strength as a community. That historic legacy will not be disrupted now, even with a virtual Fall 2020 Semester.”