UPDATE: Spelman College faculty to resume in-person teaching Monday

Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Spelman College professors who said they would not teach in-person until the school addressed their concerns about COVID-19 safety measures have agreed to return to the classroom, college officials announced Friday.

“Spelman faculty members have decided to return to in-person teaching effective Monday, August 23,“ Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a statement. “The College continues to work with the faculty to provide additional guidance on health and safety protocols as rapidly changing circumstances around COVID-19 continue to develop.”

Spelman, a historically Black college for women with about 250 faculty and 2,100 students located near Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was apparently the first Georgia college to have professors refuse to teach in-person because of pandemic safety concerns.

The college announced in April that students, faculty and employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 to be on campus this fall, unless they have an approved exemption. Classes began Wednesday.

A group of faculty members, though, said they would not be in the classroom until the college adequately addressed their concerns. Spelman officials said Friday 98% of its students are fully vaccinated.

ExplorePrevious coverage: Some Spelman faculty refusing to teach in person due to COVID-19 safety concerns

“The faculty at Spelman College were excited about returning to in-person instruction,” the message from the faculty council sent out Thursday began. “However, much to our disappointment, faculty have not received clear and enforceable protocol and safety guidelines that will ensure our health and wellbeing when teaching face-to-face. While awaiting acceptable responses to these concerns, we have decided not to teach in-person. Most faculty will use alternative instructional methods for course delivery.”

The move garnered generally widespread praise on social media, particularly from professors at other colleges and universities. Thousands of faculty members across Georgia, primarily in the state’s public University System, have demanded through letters and petitions stronger safety regulations as classes have begun at many campuses in the past two weeks.

Spelman on Thursday released a 22-page document with updated safety measures such as putting masks and other sanitation supplies in each classroom and portable air purifiers have been placed in spaces on campus where social distancing is not possible. College officials stressed that in-person instruction was still taking place Thursday.

Campbell said in a message Thursday to students, employees and faculty that the college is considering the feasibility of weekly self-administered tests.