Dear Members of the John Carroll University Community,
At JCU, our Jesuit mission fosters a commitment to cura personalis, or care for the whole person, and that includes prioritizing the health, safety, and well-being of every member of our community. Throughout the summer, our faculty, staff, and administration have lived this mission as we prepared our campus to safely welcome students back for in-person living and learning this fall. We have developed and implemented a robust plan based on best practices for health and safety of the campus in the midst of the evolving pandemic.
Late summer is always a time of great anticipation on our campus as we prepare to begin a new academic year. Yet, in recent months, variables have emerged that will affect our ability to put our rigorous protocols into action later this month.
One important variable is the current number of COVID-19 cases in Ohio and Cuyahoga County, which remain higher than expected and at a concerning level. The fact that cases have not declined as expected over the summer and the infection rate among younger individuals has increased requires us to take additional time to carefully monitor the situation in the coming weeks.
Another variable is the availability of consistent, reliable COVID-19 testing with rapid results for asymptomatic individuals. Presently, we are prepared to test symptomatic students and provide quarantine and isolation options for students living on our campus. While we have conferred with medical partners and explored a number of options for rapid testing of asymptomatic individuals, the limited availability of such tests and the slow turnaround time for test results have made securing consistent and reliable testing of asymptomatic individuals across the campus community difficult at the moment. Given the rate of infection in our county and Ohio, we are actively reviewing the current situation regarding testing, including evolving public health and medical advice and available testing capabilities, and need additional time to make a determination on the best alternative for the health and safety of our campus.
With these variables in mind, we have made the difficult decision to delay the start of in-person learning and on-campus living at John Carroll until September 21 and begin classes as scheduled on August 31 in an online format. A decision will be made regarding in-person learning and on-campus living for the full fall semester no later than September 8. Residential move-in will not take place on the dates previously scheduled. Residential students will receive information about the revised move-in dates and process the week of August 24.
We know you want to be back on campus and we are eager to welcome you back, but we have concluded that it is not advisable to fully populate our campus at this moment, without more information on the variables cited above. We have spent substantial time, funding, and effort to put in place best practices for the health and safety of our campus. We will continue to monitor the pandemic and changes in disease spread in our area and work to evaluate the current status of viral spread through enhanced testing protocols. We do this with the singular goal to bring students back to campus when doing so is advisable in light of the health and well-being of our entire community. Prior to returning to campus, students will receive information about health and safety expectations, including daily symptom assessment, a Student Commitment Agreement, and other information that may need to be completed in advance of arrival on campus.
No matter the circumstances, we remain committed to the John Carroll University education and experience that our students expect and deserve. Academic instruction will begin on August 31 as planned with all classes being remote during the phased start to the fall semester. This summer, our faculty spent more than 25,000 hours in professional development designed to improve online and remote teaching, and countless hours reworking their courses to make effective use of the technology and tools for delivering a high-quality education. They are prepared to help our students have an outstanding semester, both online and via the HyFlex model upon return to campus.
We realize the decision to delay the start of on-campus living and learning will lead to questions from our students and families. Answers to many of these questions are available in the FAQ on our Fall Plan webpage.
Students contribute so much to the culture of John Carroll University, and we miss your energy each day you are not with us on campus. It is safe to say that this generation will be shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is too early to reflect on and discern the impact of this unsettling time, I remain assured that Jesuit-educated leaders will continue to be in high demand to help us emerge stronger, smarter, kinder, and with the perspective needed to lead and serve.
In the midst of difficult days, I am so encouraged by the care, compassion, patience, and flexibility that our community continues to display. We are finding strength in the face of challenge and staying true to our faith in God in the midst of uncertainty. We remain together, apart.
Please join me in praying for all those who are impacted by the pandemic.
Michael D. Johnson, Ph.D.