March 16: Fall 2021 Semester Update
Dear Merrimack College Community -
One year ago Merrimack College joined institutions across the country and moved our on-campus experience to remote education as a result of COVID-19. While we spent the spring and summer of 2020 learning about the pandemic’s threat, our physical and mental health as well as the financial impacts to our families, our region and our country, we also spent the same time preparing to open the campus in the fall of 2020. Making the decision to open in a hybrid model ensured that our faculty and staff could maintain their commitment of learning and support to our students, and our students could continue to advance their studies and learn from our deeply committed faculty and staff.
As the Fall 2020 semester progressed, we learned a lot about the commitment necessary to keep the campus open, and we became accustomed to wearing face coverings, surveillance testing, social distancing, hand washing and Zoom. While that work went on, our focus turned towards opening for the Spring 2021 semester. And now, as the Spring semester continues, and vaccines are becoming more readily available, our focus is now on planning for the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters.
Today, we are writing to announce that our current plans envision returning to a normal Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semester on campus. Based on the efforts of the campus community this academic year, and the progress made nationally and in the Commonwealth towards vaccinating the citizenry, we see a future that is safer and significantly closer towards returning to what would be defined as pre-COVID normal. With that outlook in mind, and knowing it is likely some precautions may still remain, we are planning for Fall 2021 classes to be fully in-person (with the exception of our online graduate and bachelor completion programs), and the residential life on campus returning to a more normal experience.
Over the next weeks and months, offices on campus will focus on transitioning back to a fully open campus for the Fall 2021 semester, looking as close to Fall 2019 as possible. One of the first steps towards that effort is to prepare a Fall 2021 course schedule that is fully on-campus and fully utilizing all learning campus environments. No remote-only classes will be offered next Fall, although hybrid courses may continue because of their convenience, efficacy, and popularity with students and faculty alike. A second step is preparing for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 housing to be fully open for students. In both cases, students will be able to register for Fall 2021 classes and housing this spring knowing that our approach is to be fully open.
While part of our fall planning will be to continue to monitor the health and safety impacts of COVID-19, and to keep an eye on guidelines set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we are nonetheless excited about making the shift to better days and opening this coming fall.
Finally, we will be notifying the campus shortly on our Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 plan for an in-person graduation. We are working diligently with other local area colleges, as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on how to best achieve our goal of recognizing our graduates in person for all of their achievements, while adhering to local and CDC guidelines in an effort to ensure the safety and well being of all attendees. We plan to send updated information regarding our plans for this year’s Commencement the week of March 22, 2021.
While we are excited about the idea of returning to normal, it is important that we all continue to follow federal CDC, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Campus COVID-19 protocols through the Spring 2021 semester, or until vaccinations are completed and the virus is under control per guidance from the CDC.
We thank you all for your commitment and dedication during this unprecedented time. It is because of our students, faculty and staff that we are able to plan for a return to campus next fall that will be safe, successful and a significant return to normal.
God Bless, Be Safe and Be Well.
Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D.
Jeffrey A. Doggett, Ed.D.
Executive Vice President
Chief Financial and Operational Officer
John “Sean” Condon, Ph.D.