Students await spring 2020 decision as they adjust to online learning


Photo courtesy of Simmons University.

Katie Cole, News Editor

Students should not expect a decision on the format of spring semester until November, says Laura Brink Pisinski, vice president of university real estate development and facilities management at Simmons. She leads the steering committee of the Simmons COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.

“I would bet that we’re looking at early November for a decision, and that is my best guess right now,” said Brink Pisinski.  

In a June 17 email, former President Helen Drinan and Current President Wooten outlined planning stages for the university. Stage Three of the plan was set for August 15 through October 15 and was labeled “Fall execution and spring planning.” Brink Pisinski noted that the timeline for an announcement on spring plans has changed based on new data and the unpredictable nature of the virus.

The original timeline provided by Simmons.

According to Brink Pisinski, President Wooten asked the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force to come up with two potential plans for the spring semester. One plan would be to continue with the current model of all-online education, and the other could include bringing more students back to campus or even having some in-person classes, says Brink Pisinski. The university administrators will then weigh the pros and cons of each plan and decide which to execute for the spring semester.

The task force’s mission is to determine how to safely return to campus and create a successful online learning platform, according to their webpage. The task force meets twice a week, with various sub-committees meeting as often as needed, said Brink Pisinski. 

Interim Provost Russell Pinizzotto leads the academic sub-committee of the task force and said the university is doing its best to be flexible. Simmons announced via email that the spring semester would start two weeks later than usual, with classes beginning on February 1st. Pinizzotto says this move was, in part, to give professors more time to plan for spring classes. Although spring course registration has not been pushed back from its usual mid-October timeframe, he says it could be delayed for planning purposes.

“I don’t think it’s going to be possible to bring back all the students, faculty, and staff,” said Pinizzotto. Brink Pisinski echoed his thoughts, adding that regardless of the university’s plans, there will be students and faculty who are uncomfortable returning to campus for personal reasons.

Students are making predictions on how the spring semester will look. 

“I think it’ll be a similar situation, I don’t think it’s going to be like a whole school-wide opening seeing as the numbers haven’t really changed,” said TuQuyen Vo, a junior nursing major and resident assistant. 

The numbers Vo referenced are state COVID-19 cases. As of October 6, Massachusetts had 133,359 total COVID-19 cases, according to data published by the Massachusetts department of public health. 21,459 of those cases were from Suffolk County, where Simmons is located. Daily COVID-19 cases have risen from where they were a month ago, according to the Boston Globe.

“Everyone says ‘I want it to return to normal’ but there won’t ever really be the normal that we expected,” remarked Vo.