Higher education institutions in Charlotte are split over whether to hold classes in-person or move everything online after UNC Chapel Hill’s attempt to reopen ended after one week — with 135 new cases and a 13.6 percent test positivity rate, nearly double the state’s.
Unlike Chapel Hill, Charlotte’s largest four-year institution, UNC Charlotte, hasn’t welcomed most students back to campus yet, but is moving forward with its on-campus learning plan, in keeping with guidance from the UNC system. Campus move-ins start on August 31, ahead of the first day of classes on September 7.
But some students are asking the university’s administration to reconsider.
In an open letter released on August 18, UNC Charlotte’s student body president Tahlieah Simpson wrote that the school’s administration should “set the precedence of listening to their student body, faculty, and staff” by prioritizing safety and moving to all virtual learning to start the school year.
This week, the university reported two new coronavirus cases on campus, bringing the total to four confirmed cases.
The decision for transitioning to virtual learning or forging ahead with on-campus classes lies with the UNC system itself.
UNC system president Peter Hans released a statement following the Chapel Hill news saying in part, “The decision to adapt operations applies to UNC-Chapel Hill only, because no other UNC System institution has reported information, at this time, that would lead to similar modifications.”
Essentially, other state schools are expected to proceed with in-person classes. Each UNC system school has implemented new safety protocols, but one reason behind a number of cases at Chapel Hill — off-campus parties — are much harder to regulate.
Here’s what other local colleges are doing:
Queens University of Charlotte: Virtual
The Myers Park-based college of about 1,700 students is 100 percent virtual for the fall semester, president Daniel Lugo announced on July 31. “There is no way to safely introduce thousands of people to our campus and to ensure our safety throughout the fall,” Lugo said. Undergraduate classes start Monday, August 24.
Davidson College: In-person with virtual learning options
The private liberal arts school in Davidson started welcoming new students back to campus on August 13. Move-ins continue through the end of the month. The first day of classes is Thursday, August 20. Read the college’s full FAQ here.
The university’s plan includes a daily symptom tracker for everyone coming to campus along with restrictions on campus visitors, and eliminating open consumption areas on campus as well as on-campus parties.
Johnson C Smith: Virtual
Located just west of Uptown in Biddleville, the HBCU of about 1,500 students has also moved to virtual learning for the fall. Classes begin Tuesday, September 8.
Johnson & Wales University: Hybrid of in-person and virtual learning
First-year students and students in majors that require labs are returning to the Uptown campus starting August 31. This includes culinary and pastry arts students, which make up the largest portion of the student population.
JWU held in-person courses over the summer and managed to avoid any confirmed Covid-19 cases on campus. University president Cheryl Richards says the school’s strict attendance policy encourages students to stay safe on and off campus.
“If you choose an activity off campus or on campus that puts yourself at risk and you can’t come back to class, then you have essentially forfeited that class. That’s a pretty good deterrent,” Richards said.
Central Piedmont Community College: Hybrid of in-person and virtual learning
Classes started on August 10 for CPCC in multiple formats — online, in-person, and a hybrid of both. For a full guide of safety measures the college is taking, you can browse that here.