BOONEVILLE • Northeast Mississippi Community College is considering an earlier start and end to the upcoming fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Dr. Ricky G. Ford said his cabinet is studying the possibility of beginning the semester earlier in August in order to finish classes the week before Thanksgiving.
The tentative schedule would have fall 2020 classes beginning on Aug. 3 with classes and final exams ending by Nov. 20, the week before Thanksgiving, Ford said on the college’s TigerTalk podcast.
For comparison, NEMCC’s fall 2019 semester began on Aug. 19 and ended on Dec. 5, with final exams wrapping up by Dec. 12.
The college is typically closed during the week of Thanksgiving and students return for one last week of classes and final exams before Christmas break, but Ford said “we’re hearing there could be another spike in cases of the virus toward the end of the year.”
“We believe we can save our students from another sudden transition from face-to-face to online classes if we start the semester earlier in order to eliminate those last two weeks before the Christmas holidays,” Ford said.
He said the college would also consider a late start to the spring 2021 semester in late January or early February to wrap up by mid-May.
“These are tentative plans,” Ford said. “We feel confident that this is a good plan to have moving forward, and if all else fails then we have the capability of going fully online.”
In addition to the calendar changes, Ford said students will have the option to choose a completely online, hybrid or seated classroom schedule in an effort to alleviate student and parent concerns about the transmission of COVID-19.
The college plans to reduce the number of students in a classroom to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and more sections of classes which normally see a high volume of students will likely be added.
Although all summer classes will be conducted online-only, NEMCC is set to reopen on May 18 with 50% of employees returning to each office on a rotating basis to work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. That schedule will continue until July 1 when 100% of employees are planned to return to campus for full workdays, barring any unforeseen restrictions from the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Ford indicated the college’s five dormitories and the cafeteria will be open this fall, but any new guidelines issued by Gov. Tate Reeves’ office closer to the beginning of August will have to be observed.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Ford said. “We have a lot of work to do between now and August, but if the numbers continue to improve and we have the green light from Gov. Reeves, we’ll be ready.”