xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

McDaniel College makes it through semester, finishing with fewer than 30 cases of COVID-19

McDaniel junior Andy Witten, center, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, right, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel.
McDaniel junior Andy Witten, center, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, right, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Laura Midkiff, a junior at McDaniel College, said her decision to return to campus this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult. The Westminster resident said she could have commuted but she would have missed living on campus with her peers.

It wasn’t until she saw the college’s outlined policy that helped her make the decision to return. It was a decision she did not regret by the time the semester wrapped up.

Advertisement

“I think overall, the school has done really well handling COVID,” she said. “All the restrictions put in place, to me, seemed reasonable to prevent the spread.”

And it did.

Advertisement
Advertisement

While some colleges or universities were forced to cease hybrid learning, close campuses and have a virtual fall semester, McDaniel College completed the semester with fewer than 30 COVID-19 cases and zero in-classroom transmissions. Students are finishing their finals and headed home this week.

Signs reinforce safety practices inside the Roj Student Center at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.
Signs reinforce safety practices inside the Roj Student Center at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

As of Tuesday morning, McDaniel, with 1,800 students, has had a cumulative 27 COVID-19 cases since students returned to campus Aug. 14 with the school’s wellness center having administered 3,000 tests.

The University of Maryland, College Park, with 40,000 students, switched from hybrid learning to online learning a couple weeks earlier than planned. And Towson University, with 22,000 students, made a shift to remote learning before students had a chance to return to campus.

Wearing masks, restricting dorm guests and offering frequent COVID-19 tests became the new norm at McDaniel College, after a task force was implemented in the spring to create a game plan for the fall semester.

Advertisement

“One of the things that we decided to do early on … was err on the side of being overly cautious,” Provost Julia Jasken said.

She led the Return to the Hill Task Force that focused on reopening campus.

Students were on spring break during the week of March 16. When the pandemic numbers jumped, they stayed home for the rest of the semester and faculty and staff were told to work remotely.

The college announced in mid-June they would move forward with McDaniel Local, a program that brings in new students for a week in July and August to help them get to know the city and college.

After an effective program with about 60 students each week, administrators were confident they could bring the rest of the students back for the fall.

Maggie Kunz, health planner for the county health department, said she and staff were “pleasantly surprised” with the end result of the semester.

“We were all worried about how it was going to go,” she said.

McDaniel junior Andy Witten, right, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, left, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel.
McDaniel junior Andy Witten, right, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, left, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Kunz said the department worked closely with the college and assisted whenever needed. She later added the Communicable Disease Program staff said McDaniel’s campus safety staff and health services followed guidance. They also enforced both isolation and quarantines for students who tested positive and close contacts, which helped keep case numbers under control, she said.

Ed Singer, county health officer, recognized McDaniel for its ability to stay in session this semester, especially with the number of students on campus, at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting.

Singer said in a statement the department is happy with the results of McDaniel.

“While many other colleges in the region were closing to in-person learning over the fall, McDaniel’s planning and relationship with our staff was a very positive example of what could be accomplished in limiting the spread of COVID-19 among students on a college campus,” he said.

Instead of having 15 weeks of school, the semester was condensed to seven weeks for both session A and session B. Students took two classes in each session. Session A started Aug. 20 to Oct. 2. And finals took place Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. Session B classes lasted from Oct. 8 to Nov. 20, with finals Nov. 23 and 24.

Furniture from campus were removed, $2 million was invested for health and safety resources and a color-coded alert system was created.

The coronavirus alert level system is in the yellow level, which means the COVID-19 trajectory on campus has not stabilized and the community should ensure the greatest possible compliance.

The alert level could drop to green, which means the campus health protocols are working effectively, or it could jump to the highest level, red. That would mean the trajectory of the virus is troubling and the campus is not successful at limiting the spread.

McDaniel junior Andy Witten, left, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel.
McDaniel junior Andy Witten, left, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Even during times when COVID-19 cases are on the rise, Jasken said they have not risen to red. They did, however, once drop to green in October.

This week will be the last week for students. Finals week was squeezed into Monday and Tuesday. And move-out times were staggered so everyone was not moving at once.

“We do have some students who moved out and are taking finals at home,” Jasken said.

The provost said one factor that helped with the college’s low numbers was implementing strict restrictions from the beginning. Another factor was the increased outdoor space and the “aggressive surveillance testing,” where asymptomatic individuals were randomly chosen for testing every week.

January courses, or Jan. term, will be taken online next year and the official semester will start Feb. 1. Students will not have a spring break but the semester will move back to 15 weeks. Students will be expected to have a flu shot before they return to campus and COVID-19 testing will continue.

This semester, 58% of courses were offered in a hybrid mode where a class had both online and in-person components, or a class was mostly online but a professor offered in-person meetings. About 5% were taught in-person and 37% were taught online.

McDaniel junior Andy Witten, center, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, right, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel.
McDaniel junior Andy Witten, center, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, right, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Chloe Irla, assistant professor of art, taught her classes virtually.

“I think the college has done a really remarkable job accommodating faculty and staff,” she said, adding that she knows people who work at other institutions and were not given the option to work remotely.

When Irla raised the issue of having to monitor her 5-year-old for at-home kindergarten, she was granted permission to work from home. The tradeoff was that she had to increase her class capacity.

She had more students than she typically did this semester, about 80 compared to her usual 60, but teaching online was a smooth adjustment for her.

Her digital art and graphic design courses already required learning on the computer, and she had learned about best online teaching practices from a course she took prior to the pandemic.

She said her students gave positive feedback for her asynchronous course. One of her few challenges was getting to know students, especially the first-years. She also had to figure out balancing work life with home life, or teaching her students while helping her daughter. But she said she’s grateful for the flexibility McDaniel offered her.

Advertisement

Andy Witten, a junior, continued with his plethora of on-campus activities during the fall, despite restrictions and alterations.

Advertisement

He and his fellow members of the Jewish Student Union held events outdoors, he continued to give tours on campus, and is also a kicker and punter on the school’s football team.

He said the first month or so of the semester was mostly conditioning. The team split in groups and special teams stuck to one side of the field. They were able to throw, pass and kick the ball, but scrimmages were off the table. Practices were shorter and they hardly touched a football in the last two weeks of the season.

McDaniel junior Andy Witten, left, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel.
McDaniel junior Andy Witten, left, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Witten said he and his teammates were “accepting it and doing what they had to do.”

He said, overall, he was “fairly pleased” with the semester and that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if the spring semester was held a similar way. His only recommendation was to create more opportunities for students who did not live on campus, like a virtual trivia night.

Makayla Patterson, a senior on the volleyball team said the 13-person team was split in half and the practices were split into phases. The first phase in early October was doing ball control against the wall with their own ball no one else could touch for about two weeks.

Phase two allowed for more creative practices and using one ball per group. By the end of the season, players were having two-on-two games.

Patterson said she is still waiting to hear what the spring season will be like and is hoping they can play a few games soon.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, native said it was an easy decision for her to return to campus in the fall. The school allowed her to stay during the rest of the spring and summer to continue working in the admissions office and conducting research for a professor.

Though some of her classes were online, the biology and biomedical science major, was allowed to have labs, where they dissected animals.

However, she said it was difficult to learn “in a span of six or seven weeks.” But it was worth it, especially for seniors who were happy to be back on campus.

“It is difficult, but we’re here,” she said. “We try to stay positive even though it was a crazy time.”

McDaniel junior Andy Witten, left, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel.
McDaniel junior Andy Witten, left, gives a campus tour to prospective student Val Pryor, who attends Arundel High School, and his father Plevon Pryor, Jr. at McDaniel College in Westminster Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Witten, of Southampton, Pa., is business administration major and sports management minor who also plays football at McDaniel. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement