COVID-19 Conditions Require FSC to Change Fall Opening Plans

Aug 10, 2020

by Anne B. Kerr, Ph.D.

A message from Florida Southern for students and parents

Dear FSC Community,

Last month, I shared the College’s reopening plans for the fall semester. I wrote then that we would continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and adjust our plans as needed.

Unfortunately, since that time we have seen Florida and Polk County become virus hot spots; learned more about how young people can spread the virus asymptomatically; witnessed institutions across the country struggle with positive cases; and heard sobering predictions from medical experts about virus spread this fall.

These conditions require the College to alter its plans for the fall semester to pursue a model that mitigates the risk of virus transmission on our campus and in the Lakeland community. This has been the most difficult decision of my career since I know how heartbreaking this change in plans will be to many of you.

FAQ bar

Answers to frequently asked questions about FSC's fall semester plans.
Aug. 14 message for students and parents from Provost Brad E. Hollingshead.

I presented Friday to the FSC Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee our anticipated fall enrollment; COVID-19 conditions in our local area; advice from medical experts; information about how we would accommodate students when they tested positive or were exposed to the coronavirus; and data about the number of professors who needed to teach remotely due to health concerns.

The Executive Committee then unanimously voted for the College to limit the number of students on campus. This was decided so that the College could convert double occupancy rooms into singles, at no additional charge to students.

Thus, only the following groups of students will be eligible to live on campus during the fall semester:

  • Accounting and early MAcc, nursing, performing arts majors, education students completing internships, and P3 students and other science majors involved in research and/or selected projects
  • Honors students, Hollingsworth, Jenkins and McClurg Scholars, and Hollis Fellows
  • New first-year and new transfer students
  • Various student groups, including: Resident Advisors, Orientation leaders, Tech Buddies, ROTC, SGA executive officers, and more

All other students will not live in College housing. Commuter students who live off-campus will be eligible to attend face-to-face classes.

This was done to create more single rooms; have adequate rooms to isolate and quarantine students; lower density to use common spaces on campus such as the library, and dining facilities; and reduce the number of students in classrooms to meet physical distancing requirements.

This plan mirrors the decision of other colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Duke, Emory, Stetson, and Rollins.

In consultation with various professors and deans, the College decided to bring these groups to campus because they are likely to experience significant disruptions to their academic progress and/or they have specific needs for being on campus, such as clinical experiences that have no remote alternatives.

Of course, as with all things related to COVID-19, this is not a perfect solution. However, this plan will allow us to better manage safety protocols, offer excellent classes to those on campus, and offer excellent instruction for those who will take fall classes remotely.

More Details Soon

More details about the fall semester — including information about housing, meal plans, financial aid, and more — will be posted to the FSC Student Portal soon. This will include refunds for students who will not be living on campus this fall.

If you have urgent questions, please email and we will respond as soon as possible.

I know many of you are tremendously disappointed by this decision, as I am. We had hoped a traditional fall semester could safely take place. Our heartbreak is borne from our knowledge that there is no better campus in the country than Florida Southern College.

However, a campus is more than buildings, classrooms, and residence halls — it is the attitude, commitment, and resiliency of its people. In that regard, I know the Moccasin spirit will carry us through this difficult time to a future when we can all be together again safely.

Why Now?

In the past 10 days, the United States’ top infectious disease experts have warned that the virus is “extraordinarily widespread” across the nation and that we are facing a possible “insidious” spread this fall, especially among asymptomatic carriers.

The numerous medical and health experts we have consulted recommend this as the best plan for our students, faculty, staff, and community during this period of elevated risk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes reduced student headcount as a safer option than a full student population on campus.

This decision allows the College to decrease the student population living and learning on campus to about 50 percent of normal, thus lowering the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Reduced student capacity will also help the College manage what is expected to be an active hurricane season. Healthy students will be encouraged to shelter at home should a hurricane require a campus closure.

Living and Learning on Campus

Students who will live and learn on campus must follow the procedures outlined in the FSCares reopening plan, including forthcoming updates. The College will strictly enforce mask-wearing, physical distancing, and other measures to keep campus as healthy as possible.

Students with previous housing assignments may have them changed based on the College’s need to have one student per room and to reserve quarantine rooms for students who need them.

The College has arranged for CVS to set up a testing center on campus to provide rapid-response tests. This technology will allow approximately 60 people per day to be tested.

Tests will take about 20 minutes to produce a result. FSC will test symptomatic students, faculty, and staff, as well as conduct random tests of students. We also have arranged for a company to manage contact tracing for the College.

We will soon share requirements for COVID-19 testing before students come to campus. This will be required for all students living and/or learning on campus, as will pledging to adhere to the College’s policies regarding safe student behavior and activities.

Additionally, Florida Southern will conduct enhanced cleaning of campus facilities, including academic buildings, residence halls, and offices, with a focus on common areas and high-touch locations.

FSC will still end undergraduate face-to-face classes on November 24 of Thanksgiving Week and begin remote instruction on November 30, which will continue through the end of the semester.

Off-Campus Students

For remote-learning students, we have been hard at work planning for multiple possibilities.

While coursework and faculty instruction will look different from in-person classes, it will be the same material taught by the same professors at an equal level of excellence. Florida Southern is ready for remote instruction.

Faculty have worked diligently to prepare coursework that challenges and engages students from a distance. Our experience in the spring semester allows us to build on what worked well to ensure that students continue to learn wherever they are.

FSC also has made several technology upgrades over the summer, including a new Learning Management System and classroom camera systems that will enhance the remote-learning experience.

What’s Next

Please be on the lookout for details about the fall semester in the coming days. As a reminder: the groups of students previously listed will be able to live on campus this fall; all other students will not live in College housing. Commuter students who live off-campus will be eligible to attend face-to-face classes.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, one question has guided every decision we have made: what is in the best interest of our students? Our goal has been to keep students safe and ensure their education is impacted as minimally as possible by COVID-19.

Though this semester will unfold differently than we had hoped, I know that we will face the future together. United as Florida Southern, we will use this adversity to make us stronger.

Thank you for your support, and I send continued wishes of health and safety to you.

Most sincerely,

Anne B. Kerr, Ph.D.