Atlanta’s HBCUs plan to allow some students back for spring semester

AJC FILE PHOTO
AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC

Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC

Atlanta’s three largest Historically Black Colleges & Universities said Monday they plan to allow a limited number of students back on campus for the spring semester.

The three private schools — Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse and Spelman colleges — held online-only classes this semester, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses.

Although cases are rising across the nation, the schools believe the spring semester plans can work but said they could shift back to online-only classes if the pandemic worsens before or once the semester starts on Feb. 1. The schools, which are adjacent to each other, will require students to be tested before returning to campus, wear a face covering in most locations, limit visitors, conduct contact tracing and enact other safety measures.

“We’ve made the conservative decision to bring back a reduced number of students to campus ... it should be noted that we will continue to be informed by science and should circumstances change, we will maintain online instruction," George T. French Jr., Clark Atlanta’s president and chair of the Atlanta University Center Consortium council of presidents, said in a statement.

Clark Atlanta, which had nearly 4,000 students last year, the largest enrollment of the three schools, plans to allow first-time freshmen, new transfer students, seniors scheduled to graduate in May and some student-athletes to return to campus. Morehouse’s plan consists of allowing up to 1,200 freshmen and upperclassmen and a limited number of faculty and staff members. Spelman, which had an enrollment last year of about 2,100 students, plans to let 350 students in the residence halls. First-year students, seniors and some student leaders will be given first priority for living on campus.

The schools will offer online and hybrid courses for students not part of the groups that will be allowed back on campus.

The public University System of Georgia allowed students back on campus this fall, while offering some online and hybrid courses. System leaders want to have more in-person classes for the spring semester.

Like the University System, the three HBCUs will forgo a weeklong Spring Break to shorten the semester. They will instead have a three-day break before Good Friday.

Morehouse School of Medicine, which is also part of the consortium but follows a separate academic calendar, had some in-person classes this fall. It will continue in-person and hybrid instruction and has enhanced health and safety protocols, officials there said.

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