NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – While many colleges and universities across the nation suspended on-campus learning during the fall, Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., finished the fall semester – and 2020 – strong and in-person.
After a spring of remote teaching and learning, Westminster officials spent summer 2020 developing a preparedness and response plan to welcome students back to campus in the fall. The plan addressed academic instruction models, expected physical distancing and hygiene practices, and the monitoring of health conditions on campus. The college also implemented enhanced educational technologies and digital solutions to better meet students’ needs whether learning in-person, remotely or somewhere in between.
“We knew that in order to reopen our residential campus last fall, we had to do it the right way – safely, responsibly and carefully,” says Kathy Brittain Richardson, college president.
By adhering to the preparedness and response plan and condensing the fall calendar to avoid mass exits and returns of students, COVID numbers remained relatively low.
Campus and student events adopted for online formats and the college forged ahead with campus projects and new initiatives to benefit the student experience.
Construction continues on the three-story, 27,000-square-foot addition to Hoyt Science Center. It will house six teaching laboratories, three research laboratories, 10 faculty offices and student collaboration spaces for the growing number of STEM majors. The project is expected to be finished in mid-March.
Construction of new sports fields wrapped in November, further developing the Titan Corridor, the college’s vision for expanded and centralized athletic spaces. Completed in the fall were the UPMC Sports Complex, the home to the men and women’s soccer and lacrosse programs, a new women’s softball field, and a new baseball field complex.
Westminster entered 2021 and the spring semester, which began Jan. 19, with the same guiding philosophy and health and safety protocols in place.
A compressed calendar, in which spring break week was replaced with monthly self-care days for students, was adopted. Mandatory COVID screening was required of all students and employees before the start of the spring semester. Additionally, in accordance with state requirements, the college is performing ongoing testing of a random selection of students, faculty and staff each week.