Newman University will be moving the majority of courses fully online starting on Monday, Nov. 23.
Students will attend classes online Monday and Tuesday prior to their Thanksgiving break which starts on Nov 25 and ends on Nov. 27. Students will not return to campus after the break, instead, courses will be offered online throughout the remainder of the semester. This has been done to limit possible COVID-19 exposure from those who traveled to celebrate the holidays.
Courses such as labs and clinicals may still be in session on campus; students will need to contact their professors if they have any questions regarding their courses.
Dean of Students Christine Schneikart-Luebbe said the decision to move online after Thanksgiving was made in the fall in accordance with scientific COVID predictions.
“Our greatest endeavor since the beginning of the pandemic was to preserve the health and safety of our campus community,” she explained. “As we worked closely with the Sedgwick County Health Department and other agencies to navigate our re-entry process in August, the scientists were telling us that COVID would ramp up as the weather got colder and we moved into cold and flu season.
“As an institution, we talked about minimizing opportunity for students, faculty and staff to leave campus and then return, understanding each time potentially invited spread. For the same reasons we elected to work through Labor Day and fall break, we decided to move virtual the Friday before Thanksgiving.”
As the dean of students, Schneikart-Luebbe has heard many thoughts and feelings from the students about the decision.
“As you would expect, their reaction to the decision is mixed. Some believe it is the right thing to do for all of the aforementioned reasons. Many are just tired of the whole thing. They are tired because they haven’t had a real break since August and they are just tired of COVID in general, like the rest of us,” she said.
Junior Kayla Garvert said most of her classes are already online due to COVID-19, not by choice, she said.
“I have always struggled with straight lecture courses, so the fact that they are online, too, makes them even more difficult for me to focus on,” she said.
Her concerns are not only about her academics but also about the mental health of her peers and herself.
“Social isolation and anxiety are already taking a hit on us, so the idea of removing nearly all in-person contact we would otherwise have with our peers is quite worrisome to me,” she said.
However, the perks of online learning are that she can login to class at coffee shops or from the comfort of her home. That can also come with the perk of not having to wear a mask throughout class.
Senior Caleb Limes also commented on the move to online learning. Limes appreciates the sheer convenience of online learning. He says he’s had to Zoom into classes off and on throughout the semester due to possible COVID exposures so it’s nothing he’s not familiar with in his current courses.
Sometimes, Zooming into class hasn’t been a necessity but Limes has taken advantage for reasons of ease. “It is tempting to just Zoom into class if I am running behind or would rather be in a more comforting area that has comfier chairs,” he said.
He doesn’t feel like much will change for him in his last two weeks of the semester though he did echo Garvert in his concern for social interaction.
“I feel it also takes away that social aspect that everyone loves about Newman. I feel like I have been limited on my contact with people, especially during my senior year, is a true bummer. It all has a purpose though of keeping us safe, which is the greater need,” he said.
Schneikart-Luebbe said she understands that everyone is tired of this “new normal” and said the Newman community has worked tirelessly since March to keep community members safe and to mitigate the spread.
She shared a special message to the Newman community; “I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and a merry Christmas. Enjoy your much needed and well-deserved break. Stay safe and remember to continue to honor what you have been practicing on our campus all semester. Everyone has an important role to play in terms of preserving the health and safety of all.”
Students will return to campus on Jan. 19, 2021. The academic schedule for spring 2021 has been altered for best practices in relation to COVID-19.