January 15, 2021
Following a successful and healthy fall semester of primarily in-person, on-campus classes, Mars Hill University is carefully planning for the upcoming spring semester. University leaders anticipated a surge in COVID-19 cases as winter and the typical flu season arrived, so they strategized to delay move-in and in-person learning during the spring semester by several weeks. With the institution of an online January term, or J-Term, students now are learning online and are scheduled to return to campus during the weekend of January 30-31.for spring semester in-person instruction beginning February 2.
“I’m proud of the way our university community handled the unique and challenging fall semester, and I expect them to come through again this spring,” said MHU President Tony Floyd. “We’re continuing to work with MAHEC [Mountain Area Health Education Center] and with the other western North Carolina colleges and universities on our coordinated approach to navigating the pandemic. And, of course, as we see the numbers of infections and deaths from COVID-19 continue to reach new highs in the early days of 2021, we’re staying ready to make adjustments, if needed, to protect our students and employees, as well as the surrounding community. We have instituted additional testing protocols to stay ahead of outbreaks and hope to have a very safe semester.”
In anticipation of the students’ return, Mars Hill is requiring that all faculty and staff be tested for COVID-19, and is providing on-campus testing clinics for employees. Students are encouraged to test before returning, and onsite testing will be required at check-in. A negative COVID-19 test result must be presented before being allowed to move into residence halls. Testing protocols have been expanded for the semester, with surveillance testing of at least 12.5% of the university community occurring weekly. The university also is working with the Madison County Health Department to coordinate COVID-19 vaccinations for university employees who qualify as “frontline workers.”
Peer leaders known as Student Health Ambassadors will play a large role in helping students stay safe. The Student Health Ambassador program at WNC colleges and universities is coordinated through MAHEC, with a goal of providing health outreach and promotion, and assisting in establishing a culture of wellness and safety that helps reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission on campus.
Mars Hill will continue to implement adjusted schedules and social distancing measures for classes, dining facilities, and extracurricular activities as the spring semester begins in February.