BOONEVILLE -- Northeast Mississippi Community College employees and students will head back to campus earlier than expected after the college’s Board of Trustees approved an alteration to the start date of the Fall 2020 semester at its monthly board meeting on Tuesday, June 9.
Northeast will now start on Monday, August 3 and finish before the Thanksgiving Holidays (November 21-29) in an attempt to protect its employees, students and community members from a potential second-round of the coronavirus while still holding a full semester of on-campus instruction.
“We are constantly making sure our employees, students and visitors are not in harm’s way,” said Northeast president Dr. Ricky G. Ford. “With the expected spike of the COVID-19 in late November/early December, we want our students and faculty to reached completion of the fall 2020 semester without any interruptions.”
Northeast’s faculty will return to campus one week earlier on Monday, July 27 for InService in the Bonner Arnold Coliseum, while observing social distancing protocols, to prepare for the upcoming semester.
Originally, the college was slated to start on Monday, August 17 and finish in middle December but college officials moved the start of school in anticipation of a second round of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) hitting society toward the end of the year.
“We must understand the COVID-19 pandemic is a reality and take all the necessary precautions to keep our students and employees safe,” Ford said. “It is difficult for our students and faculty to transition into an online format in the middle of the semester. With the early start, we are anticipating the possibility of avoiding this hardship.”
Northeast’s August 3 start date is one of the earliest in school history, however, students will still benefit from Northeast’s four-day instructional week with Fridays set aside for employee professional development and faculty office hours.
“The health of the entire NEMCC community is our number one priority as we prepare to return to campus for face-to-face instruction in the fall,” said Northeast vice president of instruction Dr. Michelle Baragona. “We made this decision early to make sure that we had maximum time to prepare.”
Full-term seated courses will start on Monday, August 3 and will have Labor Day (September 7) off before finishing the semester in the middle of November.
Students will attend the last week of regular classes November 9-12 with final exams for the Fall 2020 semester happening November 16-19.
Once students leave campus after their final exams, they will not return to Booneville for classes until Monday, January 11, 2021.
“Northeast is providing a flexibility for our students that is not available at any other colleges or universities,” Ford said.
“A student will have the option of being fully online, hybrid, traditional face-to-face, and/or a combination of all,” Ford said. “We will provide them the option of converting from a seated classroom situation to an online format if the student becomes uncomfortable during the semester. This would be a seamless transition for our students.”
Northeast was well-suited when switching to fully online classes in March when the coronavirus hit the United States.
Ranked as the top online education institution in the state of Mississippi and the second-best online education institution in the nation by OnlineColleges.com, a subsidiary of QuinStreet, Inc., Northeast was able to place a majority of its classes online in just a few days and continue the semester with limited disruption.
“Northeast is very advanced with the usage of technology in the delivery system we have in place,” Ford said.
Northeast, which is one of just four community colleges to receive the Apple Distinguished School award, is also an iPad 1:1 school where students have access to their textbooks and learning materials the first day of class.
For students taking online classes, their schedules will not change for the 2020 Fall Semester with classes starting on Monday, August 24 and run through the duration of the fall with final exams slated for November 30-December 3.
While students will exit campus in middle November, Northeast's administrative offices will be open after the Thanksgiving Holidays from November 30 through December 17 with Winter Break starting on Friday, December 18 and ending on January 3, 2021.
Northeast's 2021 Spring semester will see administrative offices re-open on Monday, January 4 with full-term seated courses returning to campus on Monday, January 11.
During the 2020 Fall semester, Northeast's residence halls and the Sodexo cafeteria will be open but residence will have to observe strict social distancing guidelines and plans are in place to quarantine those who should be diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who are exposed to it.
In the classrooms, students will see smaller class sizes and social distancing guidelines enforced during their time in class.
Members of the college's facilities and operations department have been on campus all summer disinfecting and preparing the campus for students to return on Monday, August 3.