Full Text Statement Below
Thursday evening of this week would have been the Senior Legacy Ceremony and Friday would have been graduation, but they have been postponed until August! No one would have dreamed of the challenges Florida College has faced this spring semester.
First, the discovery in late January that one of our students had the measles and had exposed the entire campus population, led to having to close our campus, isolate a significant number of students who had not been vaccinated, and cancel the annual Lectureship program. Thankfully we were able to open the campus again on Thursday of Lecture week and we experienced no further cases of the measles!
Within a couple of weeks, the spreading of the COVID-19 virus around the world during February and March eventually led to governmental decrees that shut down businesses and caused colleges to close their campuses to resident students and move all of their courses to an online format. Florida College reacted quickly, extended spring break for a week, purchased the Canvas Learning Management software, and trained our faculty in the use of it with a view toward teaching online for two weeks. Within a few days, the State of Florida closed all schools, so we closed our campus as well and, in keeping with the Governor’s order and what other colleges in Florida did, completed the academic semester online.
We all recognize that fulfilling the ideals of Florida College means providing the full, on-campus experience. Our mission is to train the whole person – spiritually, mentally, socially and physically – not only by teaching the Bible as the inspired word of God, but by living its principles before one another as we grow together in all of these dimensions of our lives. It is to provide a liberal arts education founded firmly on the conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, while participating together in dormitory life, chapel exercises, intramural and intercollegiate sports, musical and dramatic productions, learning, living and leading His way together.
The central question before us today, assuming governmental authorities permit the reopening of schools by the normal August start dates, is whether or not Florida College will open our campus this fall with a view toward providing our students with the full Florida College experience. It is Florida College’s full intent today to invite students and their parents to join us for move-in day on August 15th leading to the first day of face-to-face classes on August 20th. We are preparing to manage the potential challenges that the remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic may present, and to do so with wisdom and compassion. We also intend to review the implications of this decision regularly over the course of the summer months in view of unfolding current events and, if necessary, revise our plans. But as of now, our plan is to resume in-person campus operations for the fall 2020 with students residing and studying on-campus.
There are a number of factors in favor this decision today:
- All the data to date support the conclusion that the risk associated with the COVID-19 virus is minimal for young people in the age range of over 98% of our students (ages 18-25). We will continue to monitor available data to further assess risks to our students.
- The virus has proven to present a serious danger to older demographic groups and especially those with underlying health problems. Florida College will institute policies and procedures which will provide accommodations to reduce or eliminate the risk to these individuals, including our students.
- Tests for infection and post-infection immunity through antibodies for the COVID-19 virus are becoming more readily available. As available, Florida College will employ those tests for both students and staff to further enhance safety relative to the virus on our campus.
- Governor DeSantis has introduced the beginnings of a plan for opening up the economy of the State of Florida that included the following:
- A phased in approach toward easing the “safer-at-home” restrictions and opening up businesses in accord with a well-thought-out plan.
- An appeal to continue the social distancing and cleanliness policies expected by the CDC.
- Many other states are adopting similar plans, and President Trump has provided governors with a three phase approach toward opening up the economy of the US.
While we agree that governmental actions to close down our entire society were prudent in light of the data available at the time, we also heartily agree that additional data, the revision of models based on that data, and the strongly detrimental effects we have observed on our society over the last two months all dictate the necessity of opening up our society again soon.
While Florida College is developing contingency plans in case the pandemic worsens and/or extends through the summer months, we are focused on preparing for the arrival of our students and staff in August to begin a mission-driven fall semester with maximum safety for all members of our college family foremost on our minds.
With prayers to God for His providential care,