Among Beacon College’s primary responsibilities as an institution of higher learning is the delivery of effective undergraduate instruction and support. The College endeavors to pursue this goal and its distinct mission in an environment that promotes the health and well-being of all who comprise the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique and unprecedented challenges for all of American higher education, circumstances that have required communities like Beacon to adopt courses of action that are subject to change based upon the best practice recommendations of informed external agencies.
The College’s By-laws state that the Board of Trustees ensure that institutional policies and processes are current and properly implemented. The “Responsible Community” Initiative (RCI) comprises the College’s best thinking and application about the COVID-19 emergency at a given point in time (August 12, 2020) and will be updated as new CDC, Florida State Department of Health, and U.S. Department of Education guidance demand.
Embracing The Measures That Keep Us Safe
Listed below are the interdependent protocols and actions that frame Beacon’s “Responsible Community” Initiative. We urge you to become an informed citizen of a proud and health-inspired community — understanding that your every responsible action protects us all.
- Daily Life on Campus
- The College’s Spaces and Places
- On-campus Distancing and Safety Guidelines for All Interior and Exterior Spaces
- Enhanced College Programming with Campus Safety in Mind
- Open and Regular Communication
The “Responsible Community” Initiative
Challenge is nothing new to Beacon College or its students. As with the larger society, the COVID-19 era has tested us individually and collectively in ways that have demanded a renewed devotion to core principles and Beacon’s signature moorings of realism, grit, care, and unity in purpose. The pandemic has proven a far-reaching, cunning, and erratic foe that has affected every aspect of our lives. Yet, even in this unprecedented scenario we stand prepared.
As the scope and intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic manifested nationally, higher education simultaneously experienced an awakening: for many student profiles, remote learning alone proved an inadequate substitute for the on-campus classroom experience. Beacon began planning in late April to return to the safe delivery of onsite undergraduate programming anchored to the “high-touch” collegiate environment. Safeguarding the health and safety of our students and employees has been the lodestar for all of our analysis, decision-making, and preparations.
The “Responsible Community” Initiative at Beacon College defines the scope and details of Beacon’s comprehensive and coherent effort to address the new realities of living and working safely in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world. This campus initiative takes its direction and substance from this reality: every Beacon community citizen is as responsible for the protection of others as we are for our own health and safety. And yet, the College also recognizes that even the best conceived plans and protocols for one moment are subject to change.
Since early April, Beacon’s COVID-19 Task Force — now supplemented by an external Professional Community Support and Review Team — has dedicated its energies and expertise to researching and continuously updating best practices. The College’s ambition: meeting or exceeding all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health standards.
Each element of The “Responsible Community” Initiative — spanning pre-arrival and entry testing to the on-campus protocols and safeguards through semester’s end — is designed to mesh into a coherent system that affords Beacon citizens a climate of deserved heightened protection. Our success in the COVID era will be bound to our fidelity in honoring the RCI’s well-considered provisions and reporting accurately and efficiently the impact of the initiative on the “wellness climate” of our campus. To that end, Beacon will report daily on the College’s COVID “wellness” status, placing on our website a matrix that scales current campus conditions:
|Baseline Climate||Post-COVID-19 Benchmark: The “new normal” with sustained evidence-based precautions.|
|Level 1||No active COVID-19 cases reported in Leesburg and/or Lake County, but conditions exist that warrant precautionary measures in accordance with the “Responsible Community” standards.|
|Level 2||No active COVID-19 cases on the Beacon campus, but cases reported in Leesburg and/or Lake County.|
|Level 3||Isolated active cases on campus. Beacon can effectively manage and contain through “Responsible Community” standards including active contact tracing and surveillance testing.|
|Level 4||Limited active cases on campus. Beacon fully is implementing its “Responsible Community” protocols with necessary outside resources and isolation measures.|
|Level 5||Cluster cases exist. On campus, a larger scale outbreak has occurred that becomes more difficult to manage and contain.|
The Path We Have Chosen
Survey research on the effectiveness of long-term remote learning delivery alone for collegians has been disappointing – despite its necessity and urgency in a moment of national crisis. A significant majority of our students and families – in alignment with Beacon’s faculty and staff – expressed the strong desire to return safely to the known potency of the “high-touch” campus community.
- On May 18, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees endorsed President Hagerty’s recommendation that Beacon should proceed with all necessary planning in hopes of safely reopening the campus for the Fall semester of 2020, preceded by a rescheduled Summer Session in the latter part of July (allowing for the traditional delivery of services with some flexibility for selected remote learning).
- The College’s COVID-19 Task Force, a representative body of essential all-campus academic and service personnel (commissioned in April) assumed the arduous task of researching, crafting, and continuously updating the policies, protocols, and standards recommended to the President and Senior Staff for the reopening of the campus by July 1 (approximately a month in advance of the arrival of students).
- In July, the College reached out to Trustee Al Moffett, MD, a respected Leesburg physician for over 40 years, to organize and guide the Professional Community Support and Review (PCSR) Team to: (1) support the College in gaining essential local/regional cross-disciplinary expertise during policy/protocol development and implementation, and (2) establish for Beacon a sustained, collaborative network of external public and private resources upon which the College can rely now and in the future in the arenas of public health, medicine, local hospitals, mental health, and emergency management. The Team’s work continues in tandem and coordination with Beacon’s internal COVID-19 Task Force.
- We live and work in extraordinary times that demand extraordinary measures for an institution to carry out its mission and to mitigate risks in this COVID era. In all of the College’s reopening plans and preparations, the community has held fast to a unifying purpose: affording our students the collegiate rigor and support that defines the singular “Beacon Experience” while endeavoring to meet or exceed all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health standards and recommendations.