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College announces intent to return to in-person learning for fall 2021


Grinnell College is planning to begin the fall of 2021 with fully in-person education, Anne Harris announced in an all-campus email on Thursday, March 25.

This announcement comes after the College switched its activity level from Yellow to Blue (indicating a loosening of COVID-19 precautions) on March 17th as a result of low COVID-19 positivity rates for students living on-campus for Spring Term 1. In today’s email, Harris also mentioned the return of in-person athletic competition and the hiring of community advisors and New Student Orientation leaders as successful indicators for the College’s trajectory towards an in-person experience.

“These positive steps reflect growing confidence among our public health advisors for a safe, gradual return to more in-person activities,” Harris wrote. “Although classes will remain mostly virtual for Spring Term 2 [of 2021], administration and pandemic planning teams will work with faculty and staff to plan for a primarily in-person fall semester.”

Harris wrote that the College does not expect to change its decision regarding the fall plans but added that the College will continue to monitor for potential surges in the coming weeks and months.

“The plan to reopen in the fall reflects emerging optimism that the promising news about vaccinations and additional knowledge about virus spread will permit a safe return of all Grinnell students to campus.”

The email did not provide more specific details in how the College would navigate in-person education – such as the Fall’s PPE expectations or to what extent online instruction will still be involved in classes – and said that many of these determinations would be made further in the future based on future COVID-19 case counts.

“We will closely track public health conditions across the country, in our region, and locally in adopting practices for on-campus living and learning that continue to support community health and re-entry into community in the fall,” Harris wrote.

The College’s announcement does not come without precedent. With the success of vaccination efforts across the country, many other colleges and universities have announced similar plans for reopening in the fall of 2021. Within just the past week, Albion College and Carthage College, both similarly-sized schools in the Midwest, have announced plans for a fully in-person fall semester.

Sarah Bryan ’24, who chose to abstain from on-campus residency for Spring Term 1, wrote that she is very hopeful for the fall in a message to The S&B.

“I’m optimistic. There’s probably still room for everything to go to pot, but here’s hoping we’ll be able to do in-person classes next year,” Bryan wrote.

Harris ended the email by thanking students, staff and faculty for their commitment to public health and safety throughout the pandemic.

“Thank you, to each of you, for what you have sustained and made possible this long year — and for all that you will shape and enliven as we re-enter our communal experience at Grinnell. Onwards, with optimism and resolve.”

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Nina Baker
Nina Baker, Staff Writer
Nina Baker is a fourth-year Russian major with a Russian, Central European and Eurasian Studies concentration from Lakeville, Minnesota. When she's not reporting for The Scarlet & Black, she loves taking long walks, reading, and learning foreign languages.
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