Dear Beacon Community:
This message begins first and foremost with the glorious news that no Beacon student has reported testing positive for COVID-19. We pray that our collegians, their families, and all associated with the Beacon community remain beyond the reach of this unprecedented worldwide scourge.
When students, faculty, and our support professionals departed campus earlier this month for spring break, the College’s paramount responsibility was assuring that everyone without delay returned home safely. Between March 11-13, faculty, learning specialists, and other support practitioners integral to the holistic nature of Beacon’s academic and developmental experience prepared to deliver instruction and services remotely. Our decisions, then and now, squarely focus on ensuring that our students’ progress aligns closely with the learning experience they would have enjoyed had no emergency occurred.
Many capable and determined Beacon educators have been digesting new and rapidly evolving information and weighing the best course the College should negotiate in fulfilling our unique mission. Always these decisions begin with our students squarely in mind. What we have learned over the past several days as our remote instruction and services commenced is that our collegians want to return to their community, as do our faculty and staff. Not surprisingly, the imprecise calculus required to accommodate this goal involves balancing many forces and considerations. Having weighed the myriad circumstances to render as conclusive a blueprint as possible, the College announces the following decisions — contingent certainly on the federal and state mandates related to COVID-19 at the time of our intended implementation:
- Students tentatively can return to campus during the weekend of May 16-17. On Monday, May 18 students will resume classes as “capstones” for each course they have pursued remotely (you will receive by April 17 further information from Provost Chandler about your time on campus).
- “Capstone” classes conclude Thursday, May 28;
- Commencement shifts to Saturday, May 30 at 2 p.m. at our customary location, Lake Receptions in Mount Dora, Fla.;
- Students must vacate the residences no later than Sunday, May 31;
- The summer session scheduled for May moves to a four-week session in July, likely beginning July 8 (some courses may be offered remotely, although the College expects that residences will be available and open to support on-campus learning);
- The College’s Summer for Success program for high schoolers begins Sunday, July 12;
- The Fall 2020 semester will be pushed back two weeks. Freshmen orientation now runs September 2-7. Returning students move-in from September 5-7, and classes begin September 8 (the day after Labor Day);
- The College’s “Beacon in Tuscany” fall semester abroad program has been deferred to fall 2021 (please contact Erin Chambers in the Provost’s Office for further direction); and
- Because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the Beacon “Study Abroad Travel” to Australia is rescheduled to June 2022.
Important Changes for Currently Enrolled Students
- Students can select a pass/fail option instead of a letter grade for the spring 2020 semester (although the traditional letter grade option remains available). We believe this alternative may reduce student stress as the pass/fail option will not impact GPA;
- Collegians can withdraw from a spring 2020 course any time before the last day of class (just prior to final exams); and
- Undergraduates currently on academic warning will not face suspension for the fall 2020 semester. Students with this status will be granted the opportunity to improve their academic standing in the next semester.
For students unable to return to campus in May due to illness, regional quarantines, or other issues, the College will attempt to arrange a remote learning experience during the May 18-28 “capstone” period.
While recent media stories have lamented American higher education’s fragility in the age of COVID-19, Beacon College over the past five years has established a sound business and financial model that will allow the Institution to weather the current economic buffeting and likely fiscal hangover. That does not mean that the College can ignore implementing expense-cutting measures for the short term, as any prudent institution must. These steps will help sustain the level and quality of instructional and support services demanded both during the remote learning period and for several months afterward.
Once the College and other private institutions understand the breadth and impact of the stimulus package Congress is deliberating, we will have a better handle on matters of interest to both our families and employees. Until then, the College is not prepared to respond to inquiries on matters such as rebate policies on room and board plans.
We strive to keep students and families well informed — anticipating your informational needs and questions. Early next week, we will debut a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on our “Coronavirus Information” webpage. This should clarify our decisions and better serve the community’s needs. We encourage you to visit this site. Also, parents and students have confirmed that having our College leaders connect through informational meetings via our Zoom platform is helpful and appreciated. Please monitor your email for news of future sessions. Of course, general updates, such as the message here, will be regularly placed on our website, social media sites and, when appropriate, through our email distribution lists.
We wish you all peace, safety, and good health amid this unprecedented moment.