Hope College will begin the school year two weeks early to help limit the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the campus community.

Fall-semester classes will begin on Monday, Aug. 17, with the semester concluding on Tuesday, Nov. 24.  Classes were originally to have started on Tuesday, Sept. 1, with the semester concluding on Friday, Dec. 18.

The schedule change supports the college’s commitment to providing a safe in-person living and learning experience by removing two mid-semester breaks — the college’s four-day Fall Recess and four-day Thanksgiving Recess — during which many students leave campus.  Hope didn’t have any cases of COVID-19 last spring, but in accordance with the statewide stay-home directive completed the semester via remote learning following the college’s March 13-22 spring break.

“These changes aim to limit movement to and from campus, helping mitigate the risk of a resurgence of COVID-19,” said Matthew A. Scogin, president of Hope College, in messages distributed to students, faculty and staff and posted on the college’s website on Friday, June 19.  “Our framework was developed after many hours of information-gathering and analysis, discussion amongst the COVID-19 Steering Committee, consultation with other colleges and input from local health officials.”

“As we know from the spring semester, a second wave of COVID-19 could prompt a shift to remote learning,” he said.  “We would pursue this shift only if federal or state restrictions or local health conditions required us to do so.”

Scogin noted that the college is still revising its schedules and operations for the coming semester, and that additional information would be shared as available.

“You undoubtedly will have many questions and we do not have all the answers yet,” he wrote.  “We will, of course, share more over the coming weeks, and in the meantime, I ask for your continued patience and grace.”

In advance of when those specifics become available, Scogin outlined in broad form some of what students can anticipate when they return.  For example, while the majority of classes will be in-person, some will be online or a hybrid blend of both formats.

“Given the need for physical distancing in shared spaces, we will be reducing occupancy in classrooms, labs and creative spaces.  This puts pressure on instructional space in ways we’ve never experienced,” he said.  “The combination of in-person, online and hybrid formats will allow us to maximize our instructional space and continue offering all the courses that were originally scheduled for the fall.”

Among other adjustments in the works:

  • The college will emphasize physical distancing, the wearing of face coverings in public spaces or when a 6-foot distance can’t be maintained, hygiene, cleaning and monitoring of symptoms.
  • Hope’s orientation for new students will be modified and the move-in process for students living on campus will be staggered to reduce the number of people who are together during that time;
  • Regarding on-campus living, there will be guidelines for shared spaces such as bathrooms and common areas in residence halls;
  • Dining-services options will include on-site dining as well as to-go dining, with a possibility for online ordering.  The college is working with local health officials to understand additional needs for dining areas, and in its planning is following all Michigan restaurant requirements and all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

Hope has not yet determined whether or not there will be any changes to the spring-semester schedule; those decisions will be made later this fall based on conditions at that time.  Spring-semester classes are currently scheduled to begin on Monday, Jan. 11, and end on Friday, April 30, with final exams running Monday-Friday, May 3-7.

Additional and updated information about the college’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and related effects on college operations is available at hope.edu/coronavirus.