St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s board of trustees voted on Tuesday to approve the college’s reopening plan and presented a fully remote instruction back-up plan.
The college had already announced the campus would open for the fall semester Aug. 17. Tuesday’s reopening vote solidified the goal to have students on campus while following safety and public health precautions.
President Tuajuanda Jordan said she worked closely with the campus community about the plan and is in “constant communication with health department officials.”
The college also announced this summer they would undergo a hybrid mode of instruction that would involve face-to-face or remote instruction. Meeting documents state the hybrid mode will be synchronous learning and it gives the option to go fully virtual if the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
Board documents state a survey showed 91% of new and current students who responded said they want to live on campus. It is a better environment for learning and “the vast array of socio-economic circumstances in which our remote students found themselves seriously impacted their virtual experiences,” the document states.
A fully remote instruction and telework plan for the fall was presented for if or when “the risk to the safety of the campus community be too great to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus,” a document read.
Mike Bruckler, spokesperson for the college, said although the plan was presented as an action item, it was not voted on. He said it was set aside for later if the need for the plan arose.
Documents state resources and learning platforms have been improved and more computers and mobile internet [hot spots] have been purchased for students, staff and faculty who need them if learning has to go fully remote.
Members also approved a return to work plan.
“All employees are expected to follow and model compliance to this policy,” trustee member John Wobensmith, stated.
Faculty who are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions, faculty who have lost childcare because of the coronavirus or who live with someone who is at a higher risk of catching the virus are automatically approved for remote instruction.
Mike Wick, the college’s provost and dean of faculty, told Southern Maryland News earlier this month those with a desire to teach from home but do not meet those conditions can reach out to his office.
The board also passed its fiscal 2021 budget, which totals $66.3 million in revenue and $70.3 million in projected expenses. The state gave St. Mary’s College $28.4 million.
“However, the college was informed that its general fund grant would be reduced by $2.1M due to the pandemic,” the document stated. The college is expecting 1,392 full-time students.
Before the meeting, trustee members entered closed sessions to discuss “confidential, commercial and financial information,” according to Lex Birney, trustee chair.
The college had only closed meetings on May 21, to discuss college academic programing and the impact on specific personnel, May 27 to discus reopening of the college in the fall, and June 26 to to discuss affirmation of the fall 2020 reopening plans.
“There were no actions taken or anything like that,” during the closed sessions, Birney said, adding they were brainstorming.
He said the topics fell under confidential commercial and financial information.