Hendrix College in Conway has announced it will hold classes remotely to begin the school year.
The school release:
The Hendrix College Board of Trustees voted today to adjust fall opening plans and begin the semester remotely in order to keep students, faculty, and staff safe in the wake of dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases.
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make, and it is deeply disappointing to us all,” said Hendrix President Ellis Arnold. “Given the current situation and the primarily residential nature of our community, beginning the semester remotely is the most responsible position we can take in order to protect the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.”
Hendrix will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions and, if the trends change, return to in-person classes later this fall.
“We are hopeful virus trends will improve so that we can welcome students back to campus safely and resume in-person instruction later this fall,” Arnold said, adding that the College continues to plan for an in-person and on-campus Spring 2021 semester.
“The Board of Trustees is grateful to Hendrix faculty and staff, as well as campus leaders and community partners, for developing a strategic reopening plan to resume in-person classes safely this fall,” said Board of Trustees Chair Jo Ann Biggs, a 1980 Hendrix graduate. “The current circumstances require us to re-examine our intentions to begin the semester in person. The health, safety, and well-being of the Hendrix community is, and must continue to be, our highest priority. We look forward to welcoming students back to the Hendrix campus when conditions improve.”
Hendrix faculty and Fall 2020 Steering Committee members have worked since May to prepare for in-person classes and to ensure a safe return to campus. In early June, Hendrix faculty approved an adjustment to the fall calendar, starting the semester earlier and completing in-person classes before Thanksgiving break, to reduce health and safety risks. This summer, the College joined neighboring institutions of higher education in Conway and Conway Regional Health System to form a testing and health services partnership to help fulfill its plans for in-person teaching and learning and campus life.
“While we are confident in our campus safety plans and our partners in the community, we have serious concerns, based on public health data and predictive models, about the current trajectory of the virus in central Arkansas and across the state, as well as increases in infections in areas from which many of our out-of-state students come,” Arnold said.
In Arkansas, average daily cases have significantly increased since mid-June. Late last week, the state recorded the two highest single-day numbers of community cases since the pandemic began, and the positivity rate of infection is now higher than a month ago.
Hendrix canceled in-person classes on March 13 and began remote classes on March 30 after Spring Break. Faculty have since invested significant time and effort exploring effective ways to engage students remotely and prepare flexible and hybrid courses. Many professors have participated in summer teaching workshops on flexible, hybrid, and remote pedagogy.
“Hendrix faculty are committed to challenging and inspiring students,” said Hendrix Provost Dr. Terri Bonebright. “That commitment doesn’t change whether they are teaching remotely or in person.”
“Our faculty, staff, students, and families have shown an incredible amount of patience, perseverance, and commitment to Hendrix,” said Arnold. “Hendrix has historically provided a residential campus-centered teaching and learning experience, and I am confident that our community will emerge from this extraordinary moment stronger, with an even greater commitment to the standards and values that have made this institution a leading national liberal arts college for more than a century.”