COVID-19 Update: Remaining Remote Until at Least April 2021

Oct 15, 2020
John Wark

If You Start Online, You Can Stay Online

It has been three months since we updated our applicants, students, and the community on our plans for when we might return to in-person classes. It’s time to update everyone again and take a look into the first quarter of 2021. 

Our last update pushed the first possible date of a return to in-person classes to January 2021. Based on what has transpired with the coronavirus in the last three months, we cannot see that it has become any safer for us to put 25 to 30 students and instructors in a single classroom. We don’t have a vaccine yet. Our reading of the current state of the various vaccine clinical trials suggests that we can’t plan on a vaccine before year-end and that first quarter availability is a low probability. As we look at the experience of many colleges over the past couple of months, at what’s been happening in the NFL, and at the COVID-19 case metrics, we can’t make a case that things are significantly safer than 3 months ago as we project forward to the first few months of 2021. 

Based on the above, and on the fact that the things we’re not sure about relative to COVID-19 still clearly outnumber the things we’re sure about, we are going to continue to deliver our classes online/remote until at least April 4, 2021

We still reserve the right to bring small groups of students, instructors, and community members back into our classroom space once we believe that the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks of the disease and the friction generated by COVID-19 safety measures such as masks, social distancing, etc. However, during this period no one will be forced to attend in-person if they believe the risks to their health or their family’s health outweigh the benefits of being in-person. Also, no student that is living outside the greater Nashville area and attending class remote will be required to attend in-person events or class sessions, should such activities be scheduled. 

We Won't Require You To Attend In-person Later

In regards to a student who enrolls in a class that will start online and remote, as some students have done since March and as many others are applying to do, we have never made our policy explicit regarding whether such students are expected to move to Nashville should we return to in-person classes before they graduate. This leaves such students in a position where it is difficult to plan (of course, COVID-19 has put all of us into that position, but leave that be for now). So let’s try to create a bit more clarity on this issue. 

Effective immediately, any student who enrolls in an NSS class that is starting online will be able to complete the class online should they desire to. If the student is living in the United States but outside of Middle Tennessee and plans to stay remote and take the full class online, they will be allowed to do so. Students need to be aware that if they stay remote from Middle Tennessee after graduation they will not have access to the full range of career development and placement support we are able to offer local students. Nonetheless they will be able to plan with certainty regarding living arrangements for the full period of their class at NSS. 

A Phased Approach To Returning

All of the above relates to our view of how we will transition back to in-person when the time comes. It seems obvious to us that our return to in-person will not happen all at once, like flipping a light switch. We’re expecting more of a phased transition which will result in classes shifting from all online to some form of hybrid delivery with both online and in-person. Does it eventually go back to all in-person? We’re not so sure about that. We may well decide to keep some number of all online/remote classes on the schedule even after returning to in-person instruction. But it’s also clear that we have months remaining before that decision needs to be made. 

We know we’ll be able to get back together in-person one day. We hope that day is sooner than later. As we keep saying, it’s not going to happen until we believe we can keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. 

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