As Lenoir-Rhyne approaches the end of a successful semester in a most uncertain time, it has announced two revisions for completing the end of the semester. These proactive modifications will help to ensure the health and safety of its campus community.
The last day of classes for the fall semester is Friday, Nov. 20, and residential students may choose to move out beginning Nov. 9. This is a voluntary option for students to help stagger move-out activity; students also may choose to stay until the end of the semester on Friday, Nov. 20. In August, the university staged a staggered move-in which helped control visitors and activity in its eight residence halls.
Additionally, the final eight days of classes will be shifted fully online to accommodate the staggered move-out and allow students to finish from home if they choose. Until now, most in-person classes were offered in a hybrid format that combined face-to-face time with online instruction.
"We are incredibly pleased with our success this semester in offering a top-notch education with minimal COVID-19 cases in our campus community," said Dr. Fred Whitt, university president. "These two revisions will allow us to finish the semester in positive way, while providing flexibility and reducing stress for our students and faculty."
Lenoir-Rhyne has averaged about three to four cases of COVID per week since Aug. 1 and has seen only 39 total cases of COVID though the most recent report on Nov. 2. There have been 32 student cases and 7 cases in faculty and staff. All the positive cases have been on the Hickory campus, primarily in commuter students; there have been no cases on either the Asheville, North Carolina, or Columbia, South Carolina, campuses. The total number of cases and overall positivity rate of less than 1 percent put LR among the lowest rates for a college or university in the state of North Carolina.
The two proactive changes, announced Friday, Nov. 6, were endorsed by the Board of Trustees, the university's deans and administrative leadership team and provide multiple benefits:
- Students using mass transportation and international students facing potential lockdowns in their home countries will have additional time to return home.
- Students who would have been placed in precautionary quarantine this week for 14 days due to contact tracing will not miss Thanksgiving with their family.
- Faculty who prepare face-to-face and online delivery models will not have the uncertainty of class attendance due to precautionary quarantine of students.
- The campus community can reduce their anxiety about the recent surge in regional and state increases in COVID cases.
"In speaking with our students, faculty and staff, it's clear that we are all COVID-weary," said Whitt. "We are always concerned about the whole person at LR and think these small changes will allow us to finish the semester strong and position us well for the spring semester.
LR required a negative COVID test from all faculty, staff and students before the academic year began in August. In addition, surveillance testing enabled approximately 10 percent of the campus population to be tested every week. Quarantining positive cases and extensive contact tracing helped keep COVID-19 cases low. The university will require a negative test before the spring semester begins and will continue surveillance testing.
"Our weekly surveillance testing has been critical to contain the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses," said Whitt. "That, combined with the diligence of our students, faculty and staff in following our guidelines, has allowed us to have a successful semester."
To ensure students had social events and opportunities to engage with one another safely, LR hosted a number of socially distance events for students on its Hickory campus this semester. They included an outdoor movie night, Zoom trivia and outdoor concert by the Spirit of LR Marching Band and pumpkin carving. The Student Government Association recently surveyed students to get additional ideas for events for next semester.
The spring semester begins Tuesday, Jan. 19.