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Spelman College Announces Guidance for the 2021 Spring Semester Share a Spelman College Press Release


Joyce Davis
Director of Marketing & Communications
Spelman College
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

Spring 2021 Path ForwardATLANTA (Nov. 16, 2020) – Spelman College is announcing guidance for the spring 2021 to provide students and their families time to plan and prepare for the second semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. The College is sharing its intentions for a low density, hybrid model when classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Spelman is prepared to adjust their mode of operation, including continuing with fully remote learning, should the pandemic not improve based on data from public health organizations.

To maintain Spelman’s academic excellence and mitigate against the spread of COVID-19, in the second semester, the College plans to implement significant proactive health and safety protocols, including required COVID-19 testing, symptom tracking and monitoring, and contact tracing. These protocols will be added to those already in place: mandatory mask wearing and frequent handwashing and disinfecting.

The reduced density — about 30 percent of Spelman’s normal operating capacity — will allow for the necessary physical distancing, as well as the space needed on campus for quarantining and isolating should students become exposed to or infected with the virus. Those students living on campus will have access to both in-person and remote classes.

The low density, hybrid modality is the recommendation of the 50-person Spelman College Task Force on the Path Forward, whose work was informed by science, data analysis, public health guidance and the community’s need to begin transitioning back to a campus experience.  

“Our plans are based on Spelman’s ability to monitor several health metrics, our faith that our community will adhere to health and safety protocols, and the knowledge that we may need to pivot back to remote learning if the data continues to worsen,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “In order to give students and their families time to plan, we are letting them know our intentions a full two months before the semester begins. Our goal is to move forward cautiously in beginning the process of reuniting some students and faculty and staff members in a safe residential, classroom and community environment.”

Spelman Path Forward Spring 2021 Residence HallsThe Task Force determined that Spelman can safely support approximately 350 students living in single occupancy in the residence halls. The balance of students will continue to learn remotely. A select number of faculty and staff members will be on campus to support the students living in the residence halls.

Spelman students living off campus will be able to enter campus for events (up to the campus low-density re-population capacity) and for in-person classes. However, because faculty members will be given the option to elect to teach in-person or remotely, all students should be prepared to take classes online. If classes are conducted in-person, faculty members may rotate students on different class days to satisfy class size limits to achieve a low-density teaching and learning environment.

In general, each member of the Spelman community will have to personally commit to stringent protective measures to maintain safety, including

  • universal COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff members, and recurring vendors
  • required mask wearing - indoors and outdoors - in all public spaces, classes and gatherings
  • daily symptom checking
  • physical distancing
  • frequent handwashing

The College continues to follow a phased approach to reopening, based on the Task Force’s guiding principles: Prioritizing the health and safety of students and faculty and staff members; maintaining academic excellence and preserving fiscal sustainability. The spring semester provides the opportunity to move from a fully virtual environment (Phase 1) to a low density model (Phase 2). Spelman will continue to evaluate conditions, considering its guiding principles to determine when it might transition to subsequent Phase 3 and Phase 4 of repopulation.
As in the past, the plans for the spring semester modality were made in concert with Spelman’s Atlanta University Center Consortium partner institutions, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine. While some measures across the AUCC campuses differ, mostly because of the varying physical sizes of the institutions, there was deep collaboration to ensure that the collective community will have a safe experience as each intends to move forward with some level of campus re-population.  

Spelman College Spring 2021 Low Density PlanSpelman’s health protocols have been informed by Kara Garretson, the infectious control response senior epidemiologist for MSM and the AUCC, other public health experts at MSM, and a review of best practices developed through MSM’s resumption of in-person operations this summer. These practices are also informed by the latest scientific research on the virus and current guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health and other federal and regional health agencies.

Spelman will continue to carefully monitor specific public health metrics (infection and death rates and hospital ICU bed capacity) in metropolitan Atlanta, Fulton County, and Georgia, and will notify constituents as early as possible if the public health metrics dictate a need for a change in the mode of operation.

The College is continuing to finalize the specifics of the academic and safety plans for the spring semester. Confirmed details can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions below.

Spring 2021 Frequently Asked Questions

How are students/faculty/staff going to be kept safe?
Spelman will implement a proactive health and safety protocol designed to help prevent spread of COVID-19. Plans include the following:
•    Monitoring, Testing, Contact Tracing, Isolating and Quarantining. Spelman is collaborating with the members of the AUC to implement rigorous health and safety protocols guided by respected public health guidance, data analysis and science. Assisted by epidemiologists and public health experts, the College will implement a series of safety measures including daily symptom tracking, frequent surveillance testing, isolation for those who have tested positive, quarantine for those who may have been exposed, and contact tracing to identify others who may have come in contact with those infected or exposed. Students will also have access to campus student health services, including the newly opened AUC Student Health Center on Lee Street.  
•    Mandatory Masks. In accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, masks will be required for anyone in a class, gathering, meeting or public indoor and outdoor spaces on campus. Masks will not be required when persons are by themselves in residence hall rooms or private offices.  
•    Handwashing, Hand Sanitizer, Cleaning and General Disinfecting. Spelman community members continue to be encouraged to wash hands frequently. In addition, hand sanitizing stations are readily accessible at locations across campus. Furthermore, enhanced and more frequent disinfecting protocols for all buildings has been implemented.  
•    Physical Distancing and Limits on Gathering Size. Physical distancing continues to be encouraged on campus. This includes limitations on gathering sizes and reductions in the number of people allowed to occupy various spaces and buildings.
•    Density Limitations. Fewer people will be present on campus this spring as in-person instruction is focused on specific cohorts of students. Spelman expects to have about 350 students in the residence halls. To support the students, there will be a select number of faculty and staff on campus for a total population that is about 30 percent of normal operating capacity.
•    Dining. Changes will be made to dining services to limit the possibility of COVD-19 exposure.  

Are there proactive health precautions students, faculty, and staff, should take before returning?
Before returning to campus, each member of the Spelman community will be required to:
•    Present a negative COVID-19 test result
•    Participate in a risk assessment training module
•    Submit a "COVID-19 free" declaration
•    Sign community pledge to maintain safe practices for the health of the campus community

What are the COVID-19 testing procedures?
Testing for COVID-19 can reveal an individual’s health status at a point in time. Though no mitigation is guaranteed to stop the spread of the virus, testing can identify people at greater risk of spreading the virus. Moreover, testing is a service which helps individuals know if they have the virus, prompting them to seek proper information and treatment. Testing is not 100 percent accurate and just because someone receives a negative result does not necessarily mean that they are not carrying the virus. Nonetheless, testing is one of the most effective ways to identify infected persons and prevent spread, (especially in concert with other mitigation measures such as hand washing, mask wearing, and physical distancing).  

Anyone routinely accessing Spelman’s campus must be tested according to frequency intervals established by campus community health officials. The planned testing strategy for the spring requires bi-weekly surveillance testing. All Spelman students, faculty and staff must be tested prior to arriving on a campus for the spring semester 2021.  

Testing is required whether someone has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and will be performed routinely to ensure community health and reduction of COVID-19 spread. The frequency of surveillance testing will be determined according to a few factors, including but not limited to regional infection rates, positivity rates among the community in question, and other circumstantial considerations, including events, activities or occasions that may prompt a spike in positive cases.  

The most commonly endorsed COVID-19 test (by national health officials) and what is recommend by MSM for AUCC faculty, staff, and students is a polymerase chain reaction test. PCR tests detect the COVID-19 virus by searching for the presence of its basic genetic material, its RNA, inside a person. The RNA will only be present if a person is currently infected. The PCR test differs from an antibody test. An antibody test can be used to determine if a person has had the virus in the past by looking in a person’s bloodstream for a specific antibody produced by the body’s immune system to defend against the virus.  

Testing Information for Students
•    All students must produce a negative result from a PCR test administered 72 hours before arriving on campus. Those who test positive will not be admitted to residential facilities or allowed to attend in-person classes during the spring semester until an isolation period has concluded and they produce a negative test.
•    Information about available testing will be forthcoming.
•    Students will need to notify a Spelman representative about their COVID-19 status based on the test prior to arrival on campus.
•    In addition to a negative COVID-19 test result, students will be required to quarantine in their assigned residence hall room for 14 days after arrival to ensure the safety of our community.

AUCC-provided Tests:
Coordinated through the AUCC and Morehouse School of Medicine, community testing will be made available at no cost to all students, faculty and staff members once the semester begins. MSM and AUCC, in turn, have partnered with well-respected laboratories and public health companies to process tests and provide results in a timely manner.  

Tests Not Administered Through an AUCC Institution:
Numerous opportunities for testing are available, and it is acceptable for students, faculty, and staff to obtain a test elsewhere in lieu of the test provided by Spelman. Testing by another entity, however, must meet the following conditions to be accepted:
•    testing cannot have been administered prior to 72 hours before arrival on campus
•    results of the test must be obtained prior to arrival on campus
•    testing results must be submitted to a campus official

If, for some reason, students cannot take the test at home, Spelman will provide further instructions. Note that students will be expected to self-monitor for indications of COVID-19 through a symptom tracker and will be subject to temperature checks while on campus.
Testing Information for Employees
To support the cohort of students who will be living on campus in the residence halls, the College will determine a select group of faculty and staff members who will return to work in the spring. Those returning to campus will be split into two groups such that each group will work on-site two days a week and be tested weekly on one of those days.  

Before reporting to work on campus for the spring semester, all employees at Spelman, even those who may have a need to come to campus occasionally, must receive a negative test result. Employees may obtain their own valid test (at their own expense — see above requirements) or participate in AUCC-wide COVID-19 testing (at no cost to the employee).
All individuals reporting to Spelman will be required to comply with routine temperature and symptom checks prior to arrival on campus each day. In addition, as the semester progresses, Spelman will use data and algorithms to determine when individuals with access to campus should undergo additional testing.

What is the College’s isolation and quarantine capacity?
Isolation separates those who are infected with a contagious virus from people who have not been infected. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a virus to see if they become infected. Spelman will utilize more than 160 spaces in the Beverly Daniel Tatum Suites for isolation and quarantine needs of residential students. Isolating and quarantining will be on opposite sides of this residence hall.

How often are the symptom and temperature checks?
Although less effective than full-scale testing, symptom and temperature checks can alert symptomatic persons that they have symptoms consistent with the virus and allow the College to immediately apply mitigation procedures which prevent spread. Upon re-entry to Spelman, all employees and students will be screened daily to ensure that they are not displaying any obvious symptoms.  

What are the masking rules?
Numerous studies have indicated that mask wearing is effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19, particularly when all parties in proximity to one another are wearing multi-layered masks. All students, faculty, staff, and approved visitors will be required to wear masks in public places or in areas where physical distancing cannot be effectively practiced. Students, faculty and staff members, and approved vendors should bring and wear their own masks. Additionally, one reusable mask will be provided by Spelman to each student, as well as each faculty and staff member. Mask dispensers will be available in various locations on campus. Persons not wearing masks will be denied entry into public spaces.  

What are the handwashing and hygiene protocols?
Every person at Spelman is expected to be vigilant about personal hygiene, both to prevent contraction of the virus and to prevent its spread from an infected person to others.
•    Handwashing. Hands should be washed often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after a visit to a public place, or after nose-blowing, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol should be utilized.  
•    Touching face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.  
•    Coughing. Cover your mouth and nose with the fold of your arm whenever you cough or sneeze.  

What will happen if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases on one of the campuses?
Every effort is being made to mitigate the risk of spread on an AUC campus. However, each campus retains the flexibility to intensify mitigation actions, including closing buildings, isolating pockets of potential carriers, and instituting a return to remote learning. Contact tracing will be utilized to identify any persons who may have come into contact with a person testing positive for the virus.  

What if a student simply feels uncomfortable attending class?  
Some students who would be eligible to return to campus for the spring semester will choose not to for medical or personal reasons and can continue virtual instruction. For students who do return to campus and at any point experience symptoms of COVID-19, they should remain in their room and follow Spelman’s health and safety protocols, which begin with contacting Spelman’s Student Health Center. If a student simply feels uncomfortable attending class for a non-medical reason, they should contact a Spelman representative for further guidance.

What if a faculty or staff member feels uncomfortable coming to work due to personal health risks or risks to persons living with them?
Faculty or staff members who have underlying health conditions, which put them at greater risk or who live with persons at greater risk should contact their supervisors or the Office of Human Resources for further guidance.

What should a student do who is experiencing symptoms? Faculty and staff?
Once on campus, if a student feels that they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or they have tested positive, they should immediately isolate themselves in their residence hall room and contact Spelman’s Student Health Services. Health Services will provide additional instructions about how to receive treatment, if necessary, avoid contact with others, and receive meal service. In some cases, isolated, asymptomatic students may still participate in remote courses and/or receive the materials and work from in-person courses.  

Faculty and staff members who have tested positive or believe they are experiencing symptoms should not return to work and should contact their health care provider, supervisor and human resources representative.

What students will be invited to live in residence halls on campus?
First-year students, seniors and some student leaders will be given first priority for residing on campus. The Division of Student Affairs is developing an application to reside on campus and a process for selection.

How will on-campus living arrangements be affected?
Density in the residence halls has been reduced, with only single occupancy in the rooms, which allows for easier physical distancing in hallways, common spaces and bathrooms.  

Is there an impact to residence hall move-in plans?
Move-in will occur by appointment and the number of people assisting will be limited. It is also highly recommended that move-in activities be limited to a single engagement, and that traditional day-of visits to Atlanta-area grocery stores, big box retailers, and other places for supplies be avoided to reduce the potential for the virus to be contracted and introduced onto campus after a student has been cleared to move into their residence hall.  

How will students who remain on campus participate in academic and co-curricular activities?
In order to incorporate social distancing and reduce close contact, there will be adjustments to academic and student co-curricular activities. Activities and events are being planned to engage all students, including those who will be attending virtually.  

Will a student attending one AUCC institution be able to attend classes and visit residence halls on another campus?
All Spelman students cross registering for classes at Morehouse and CAU will attend those classes remotely. Morehouse and CAU students registering for Spelman classes will attend them remotely. In general, students should expect adjustments to normal campus visitation policies and restrictions on access as each college works to mitigate any spread of the virus on its campus.

Will commuter students be invited back for in-person instruction?
Spelman students living off campus will be able to enter campus for events (up to the campus low-density re-population capacity) and for in-person classes. However, because faculty members will be given the option to elect to teach in-person or remotely, all students should be prepared to take classes online. If classes are conducted in-person, faculty members may rotate students on different class days to satisfy class size limits to achieve a low-density teaching and learning environment.

How has the academic calendar been affected?

The first day of classes will remain Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, as previously announced. There will be no spring break, though there will now be a shorter mid-point break beginning on Wednesday, March 31, and ending on Friday, April 2 (Good Friday). This schedule will apply to students learning both in-person and virtually.

How are access to the library and library services affected?
The AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library, shared by Spelman, CAU, the International Theological Seminary, and Morehouse College, has proactively instituted policies to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread. These include reorganizing spaces inside the library to provide for physical distancing, limiting the number of people who can access the library at any given time, requiring personal protective equipment, including masks, and enhancing the frequency of surface cleaning. In addition, numerous library resources are available online and library staff is available to assist students and faculty virtually.

*Spelman’s health protocols are informed by public health experts at MSM and a review of best practices developed through MSM’s resumption of in-person operations this summer. These practices are also informed by the latest scientific research on the virus and current guidance provided by the CDC and federal and regional health agencies.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit



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