SMC to shift to remote learning starting Nov. 23

DOWAGIAC — A local college will transition to remote learning in the coming weeks as COVID-19 infection numbers continue to rise in the area.

In order to reduce exposure related to travel and gatherings, Southwestern Michigan College announced on its Facebook page it will shift most of its classes to remote learning from Monday, Nov. 23 through the end of fall semester on Friday, Dec. 18.

“Since the beginning of fall semester, students and employees have been largely diligent in following safety protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” wrote SMC president Joe Odenwald in the announcements. “This is truly appreciated, as by working together, we have been able to live on campus and meet for in-person classes successfully. However, health authorities have noted a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations in our local area and throughout the State of Michigan.”

According to Odenwald, the onset of colder weather conditions has health professionals predicting further spread as people conduct more activities indoors. 

“The CDC reported this week that ‘household gatherings’ are contributing to the surges,” he wrote. “To that point, with many members of the campus community likely traveling to gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we are concerned that a return to campus by everyone could contribute to additional cases in early December, a situation we want to avoid.”

Odenwald said that courses with laboratory or in-person skills components may still meet in person. Faculty in those sections will communicate their expectations directly with students in the coming weeks.

Residence halls will remain open, both during the break and beyond for students who need to remain on campus. Further information will be sent to residents in the coming days.

Both the Dowagiac and Niles campuses will remain open during regular business hours to serve students and the public.

The Fred L. Mathews Library and Student Activity Center will also remain open during regular operating hours and student worker positions will continue as needed.

Odenwald asked that all members of the SMC community continue to report symptoms via the Campus Clear app and to follow all current safety protocols. SMC employees should work with their department supervisors to ensure the ability to operate both in person and via remote access.

“We are providing as much advance notice as possible so everyone can plan ahead and make necessary arrangements,” Odenwald wrote. “We also know that with this advance notice, faculty will have the ability to work with willing students to make sure they can complete their courses successfully.” 

Odenwald said he expects the school to resume in-person classes while offering expanded online options for the spring semester, which begins on Jan. 25, 2021.

“As president, I believe my most important role is to consider the conditions, and then to put us in the best position to be safe and successful,” he wrote. “This decision to pivot temporarily to remote learning is also in line with the best practices and schedules of other colleges throughout the country. Students, we urge you to please continue to exercise compassion for each other by following all safety measures, to remain engaged in your courses over the next few weeks as we approach Thanksgiving, to study hard during the push to final exams, to take advantage of tutoring appointments, and to once again finish strong this semester. Your resilience has inspired us this fall, and we want you to know that SMC is doing everything we can to help you be successful during and beyond this difficult time.”

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