Campus reopening: a year away?


Johannes Haasbroek

The Arnold campus could be mostly vacant for another year while classes remain online, college officials say.

Audrey Wais, Editor-in-Chief

AACC’s campuses are unlikely to fully reopen for another year, AACC’s vice president for learning said in January. 

Dr. Mike Gavin told Campus Current the college will tentatively add more on-campus classes next semester, but most students will continue to learn online in fall 2021. 

“If you would [have] ask[ed] me before Thanksgiving, I probably would have said [we would return to campus next] fall,” Gavin said. “That’s not looking good.”  

Gavin said the school might reach Stage 4 of the Riverhawk Recovery Plan–the college’s five-step strategy for eventually reopening its three campuses–by spring 2022. In Stage 4, half of the sections of seven high-enrollment courses could have classroom meetings, and students could attend on-campus biology and physical sciences labs. 

Most other classes would remain online. 

This semester, the college is operating under Stage 2, with 95% of classes online. Approximately 2,000 students this semester are taking hybrid classes, which meet mostly online and sometimes on campus, Gavin said. 

On-campus students include those enrolled in courses that cannot be taught online, like  some nursing, dance, studio arts and culinary classes, for example. Student athletes also might return to campus in early February to start practicing for the spring sports season. Athletic department officials said they are unsure when the season will begin.

Gavin said students will stagger their visits to campus, so few will be at the college at one time. Those who are must “attest to their health,” wear masks and socially distance, he said. 

Each classroom may hold up to nine students and one professor. 

Gavin called the college’s approach to reopening “conservative,” but said officials would rather plan for a mostly online semester than interrupt on-campus classes mid-semester if state and county officials later say the college must close. 

Last spring, face-to-face students and professors had to switch gears mid-semester as all classes went online at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Gavin said college officials are “not even close to a decision” about when the campuses will fully reopen. 

“We’re not even at a place where we [can] have a robust conversation about the decision because we don’t know enough about anything right now,” Gavin said. 

When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to students, faculty and staff, that could nudge the campus closer to reopening, Gavin said. 

“We don’t even know what the vaccine means for Anne Arundel Community College,” Gavin said. 

Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Joe Biden’s nominee for surgeon general, has estimated it could be mid-summer before the general public can take the vaccine. 

Before students and faculty can return to campus full-time, “We have to be very confident that we could keep [them] as safe as possible,” Gavin added.  

Students said they miss taking classes on campus, but they agree it’s safer to take them online. 

I’m 50-50 on it,” Abby Maloney, a second-year human services student, said. “It is frustrating because being able to be in person and learn in person is a great thing. But also I respect the college’s decision on not reopening at this time.” 

First-year creative writing student Marquart Doty, who recently recovered from COVID-19, agreed. 

“I think campus should stay closed,” Doty said. “Online learning is hard, but it’s a lot easier than being exposed to a bunch of people. I think that it should stay closed until coronavirus is fully over.” 

One nursing student, who is taking a class on campus this semester, said she prefers in-person instruction. 

“Going on campus is much better,” third-year nursing student Duaa Ahsan, said. “It’s … more productive and more active.”