Barry McNamara  |   Published August 13, 2020

Ready to Welcome Students Back to Campus

Safety measures in place, outdoor classrooms set up – including four tents – and buildings receive a deep cleaning daily.
  • Outdoor Classroom 6, located between Wallace Hall and Wells Theater, was already designed as a classroom space. It was given to the College by the Class of 2011

MONMOUTH, Ill. – When Monmouth College students headed home for spring break in early March, no one knew that they wouldn’t be right back.

After five months away, Monmouth students finally return to campus this weekend in preparation for the start of the fall semester on Aug. 18. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fall semester will start eight days earlier than planned, and it is scheduled to end Nov. 24 without any breaks.

“Our staff spent the summer making the necessary adjustments to furniture and floor plans for the upcoming school year,” said Hewes Library Director Sarah Henderson. “We are excited for the return of our students and look forward to helping them with their research needs. Our staff has missed them and can’t wait to see them again.”

Part of the “necessary adjustments” around campus has been finding new locations to hold classes. Psychology professor Joan Wertz, one of the College’s associate deans, said Monmouth’s typically good fall weather came into account.

“We have four tents going up on campus later this week, and we’ve identified 22 other spaces around campus for faculty to hold classes outdoors as the weather permits,” she said. “We’ve already had nearly two dozen faculty members indicate that they intend to teach outdoors this semester, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that number goes higher. I expect that many of our students will have at least one class which meets outdoors on a regular basis this semester.”

A good deal of attention was paid to indoor spaces, as well.

“We have put a lot of effort into prepping our classrooms, working with the best practices nationally, as well as listening to our faculty’s great ideas, so that they’re ready for us Day One,” said Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt. “Our faculty had opportunities to attend summer training on remote learning conducted by those who best understand and practice the pedagogies. We’re confident that what we learned last spring, and what we’ve learned over the summer, will make all of our classes better, whether they’re taught in-person, remotely or through a hybrid of modes.”

Doing the heavy lifting for all the logistical changes has been the College’s physical plant staff, led by Director of Facilities Management Sarah Young. Her crew has played a major role in making sure classrooms, living spaces and common areas are safe as possible for the campus community.

“The hours we have put forth in social distancing efforts and putting in place initiatives that will help stop the spread of the virus are countless,” said Young. “Every individual on the maintenance staff works daily in some manner to do their part. We do a daily deep clean in each academic building classroom, bathroom and high-touch area and surface. Our staff has removed a great number of desks and tables in each classroom to aid in social distancing. Those are just a few examples of what our staff members are doing, in addition to their regular duties.”

“We have put a lot of effort into prepping our classrooms, working with the best practices nationally, as well as listening to our faculty’s great ideas, so that they’re ready for us Day One.”
– Mark Willhardt, dean of the faculty

About 300 students have opted to live in single rooms this year – up from the normal total of 50 – according to Karen Ogorzalek, Monmouth’s co-dean of student life. Students are receiving the single-room rate at no additional charge this year. In addition to more single-occupant rooms, residence life implemented other measures to keep students as safe as possible.

“Some furniture was removed from lounges, kitchen usage will be restricted, and visitation in halls will be limited,” said Ogorzalek. “Students are required to wear masks and to social distance, and they are encouraged to meet their friends outside.”

Each student will be given two reusable cloth face masks customized with Fighting Scots logos. Ogorzalek said dining locations will have slightly adjusted meal times to accommodate students. Meals will be individually served, and some tables and chairs have been removed to accommodate social distancing.

Greek life will also have a slightly different look. Fraternity chapters formerly housed in the Fraternity Complex on the northeast corner of campus have been moved to Founders Village. Changes will also be made to the recruiting period, which begins the first week of classes.

“Recruitment will be held in a more virtual setting for both the men and women,” said Ogorzalek. “Panhellenic Council has prepared a hybrid form of recruitment, with some in-person events in small groups and some online. Each chapter will prepare virtual house tours for potential new members. All the chapters want to be inclusive and welcome potential new members to their events the way they feel most comfortable.”

Although the return of students signals a major move in the direction of “normal,” there will be an element of campus life missing this fall – intercollegiate sports competition. In late July, the Midwest Conference, of which Monmouth is a member, suspended competition through Dec. 31.

“We know the recent announcement about fall sports being canceled is disappointing to our student-athletes and is probably causing some anxiety for them about their season,” said Director of Athletics Roger Haynes. “But our coaches have done a great job of reaching out to their respective athletes in the past couple weeks, and we are still looking forward to training, conditioning and practicing as Fighting Scots teams.”

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