Scripps College confirms spring semester will start online

A concrete courtyard with a round-about in the middle. In the round about there is green foliage and tall palm trees. The courtyard is surrounded by white college dorm buildings.
Scripps College announced in an email that the spring semester will start online. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

Due to worsening COVID-19 pandemic conditions in Los Angeles County, Scripps College will start the spring semester online, reinstate the traditional week-long spring break and try to bring students back in March, President Lara Tiedens announced via email Tuesday.

The decision comes on the heels of Dec. 2 guidance from LA County that does not currently permit colleges to reopen. It is unclear when the next county-wide update will come.

COVID-19 cases have reached an all-time high of more than 10,000 new cases in LA County, which recently instituted a “Stay at Home” order that requires all county residents to remain in their homes except for permitted activities, such as buying groceries. 

“Based on the recent announcements about LA County’s timeline and metrics for reevaluating guidance for higher education, the Scripps Board of Trustees and senior team have concluded that it will not be possible for students to return to campus in January,” Tiedens said.

The email also follows a Dec. 3 announcement from Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver that none of the Claremont Colleges would bring students back for the start of the spring semester and that the previously canceled spring break would be reinstated.

Pomona College publicly confirmed Friday that it would begin the semester remotely and Harvey Mudd College announced Monday that it expects to do the same. Both colleges also confirmed the reinstated spring break.

Tiedens said spring break — which will be the week of March 8-12 — was added back into the academic calendar “now that doing so would not result in dangerous travel to and from campus.”

Scripps will try to bring students back to campus following the break, Tiedens said. 

“The college is eager to bring students back to campus and has engaged in a rigorous and deliberate planning process. We are confident that we could reinstate some in-person components of the Scripps College experience, just as has happened elsewhere in the country,” Tiedens said. “For these reasons, we, along with the other Claremont Colleges, continue to work with LA County officials seeking routes for safe in-person operation.”

If COVID-19 cases in LA County drop below 10 per 100,000 residents per day for two weeks straight, the county will allow 10 colleges that apply for their waiver program to reopen with 500 students or 50 percent capacity — whichever is fewer — and restrictions, such as a campus bubble and COVID-19 testing, Oliver, the Pitzer president, announced last week.

Tiedens said tentative move-in dates for students’ potential mid-semester return would be March 11-14 and released a website, Scripps Strong, with more details.

While “many classes” would be offered online even if students return to campus, Scripps has created outdoor classrooms that would serve all in-person classes. Open-air tents would also provide students with a space for small group study, according to the website.

Scripps has also leased apartments in two buildings “adjacent” to campus and would “manage the spaces as we manage our fully owned residence halls,” according to the website.

Shield T3, a COVID-19 testing service, would conduct twice-weekly testing of all students, faculty and staff at the Claremont Colleges. The saliva PCR-test results would be returned within 6 hours, and the laboratory would be located on campus, according to the website.

It is a “less likely scenario” that other 5Cs will be permitted to join and form one larger bubble, according to Scripps’ website. In October, Pomona had a working hypothesis to bar cross-campus travel if students could return in the spring, and Harvey Mudd had similarly planned to create a one-campus bubble, according to its website.

“Our goal is to be part of the ongoing efforts to reduce associated risks,” Tiedens said. “I can assure you that we are doing everything within our power to create a campus environment that is as safe as possible in these conditions and that allows our students to continue their education consistent with our institutional mission.”

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