On March 26, President Damián Fernández emailed the Eckerd community about the current plans for the upcoming fall semester. However, according to Fernández, these plans are subject to change as they follow CDC guidelines in regards to the spread of COVID-19.
The college is planning to return to its normal academic schedule and operations starting fall 2021. Starting in Autumn Term 2021, classes will be offered in-person only instead of the current option of taking classes completely or partially remotely. Students who are exposed to COVID-19 will be provided with other options to continue their studies as they complete the recommended two-week quarantine period.
According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison, allowing students to take classes remotely was a way of adapting to pandemic conditions, but it no longer seems necessary as these conditions diminish.
Harrison said in an email, “Before COVID forced us to shift to remote instruction last spring, along with almost every other college and university in the country, we had not offered online education, and we do not intend to moving forward. It is not in keeping with College's mission or educational philosophy. . . Our plan is to return to our core educational values and practices.”
The phased move-in of fall 2020 will not be continued in fall 2021. According to the email from Fernández, new students and select student leaders will move in for Autumn Term beginning Aug. 13, and fall semester will begin Sept. 6. The full academic calendar for next year is as follows:
Autumn Term: Aug. 13–Sept. 2, 2021
Fall semester: Sept. 6–Dec. 16, 2021
Winter term: Jan. 4–28, 2022
Spring semester: Feb. 1–May 19, 2022
Additionally, the campus will resume its usual summer operations. These operations include multiple summer courses, which will be offered in a variety of formats: remote, independent or directed study and summer individual study. More information about summer courses can be found here. The campus will also be open for summer research in which faculty and students advance their research and co-author research publications.
As more Eckerd students, faculty and staff continue to get vaccinated, the college encourages everyone to fill out this form. As of March 29, 57 faculty members and 23 students are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have passed since they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Junior Annalise Sutter is hesitant about completely opening up the campus again even with the increasing number of people receiving the vaccine.
“Nothing will ever go back to ‘normal’ because we have lived through a global pandemic. Part of me wants to forget it all and have a normal senior year. But that’s a dangerous way to think unless the campus is 100 percent vaccinated,” Sutter said.
However, Sutter does have some positive feelings about returning to completely in-person classes.
“[Dealing with remote students] puts the entire class at the mercy of technology. It can be distracting and time consuming,” she said.
Junior Isabella Torres is concerned about the lack of remote options for the upcoming semester.
“I have mixed feelings about it. I think people may not have the vaccine yet … it will be a problem for people who are high risk,” Torres said.
While the Eckerd community is optimistic about plans for the fall, college officials encourage everyone to continue practicing personal protective measures and respecting the Eckerd Together Promise.
Dean of Students James Annarelli said, “In the coming months, we will continue to monitor closely the trajectory of the pandemic and the expanded availability of vaccinations. We are optimistic that the experience of Autumn Term and fall semester will be characterized by a greater sense of normalcy, although we do anticipate the continuing need to adhere to appropriate COVID-19-related health protocols.”