Atlanta HBCUs pivot to virtual learning due to COVID-19

Giles Hall is seen in the background on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta. Clark Atlanta University and Spelman plan to start their 2022 spring semester with virtual instruction. (Chris Shinn / Spelman College)

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Giles Hall is seen in the background on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta. Clark Atlanta University and Spelman plan to start their 2022 spring semester with virtual instruction. (Chris Shinn / Spelman College)

Three historically Black colleges and universities plan to begin the spring semester with virtual instruction when classes resume.

Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College will only offer online classes from Jan. 12 through Jan. 28. The colleges plan to resume in-person classes on Jan. 31.

The changes were announced Thursday due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 due to the omicron variant. About 87% of all hospital beds in Georgia were occupied at 3 p.m. Thursday, including 82% of intensive care beds, according to health data.

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In a statement, Spelman College said it was adding testing requirements prior to arrival on campus for the spring semester, including a booster shot mandate.

The college said students and employees must take an at-home COVID saliva PCR test prior to arriving on campus next month. Those that commute must bring a negative PCR test with them to access the campus beginning Jan. 24.

In addition, all eligible students and employees at Spelman must submit proof of booster shots before Feb. 6, unless an exemption was approved.

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In a Twitter post, Spelman College said that students assigned to residence halls must schedule an appointment before arriving on campus between Jan. 24 to Jan. 28. That’s to allow for appropriate social distancing.

Schedules for Spelman students moving into dorms on campus will be available from Jan. 10 to Jan. 16 on the college’s housing website, according to the college.

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Clark Atlanta University's Harkness Hall is one of the main buildings on its campus. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

Clark Atlanta University's Harkness Hall is one of the main buildings on its campus. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

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Clark Atlanta University's Harkness Hall is one of the main buildings on its campus. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

Clark Atlanta University also announced that PCR tests will be required for all students and staff prior to their return on campus. Booster shots are required before Feb. 6, unless the university approves a religious or medical exemption. Rapid antigen tests will be required on campus.

Students must wait until the week of Jan. 24 before moving into their dorm rooms. The university urges students to wait until the move-in schedule is published before making travel plans.

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Morehouse is requiring students and employees to produce a negative test result before returning to campus. All events on campus are canceled through January, and students cannot return to residence halls until at least Jan. 26.