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Bethel announces plans for fall reopening

June 1st, 2020

Ad Building with threshing stone, by Glen Ediger

President Jon C. Gering, Ph.D., has begun to outline Bethel’s plan for the fall semester.

"We are planning for in-person classes in fall 2020,” he said.

According to a Chronicle of Higher Education database, the majority of the nation’s colleges and universities are taking this approach.

During a May 4 online meeting with college employees, Gering recognized the significant effect that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on higher education.

“Our campus will never operate the same as it did prior to the … pandemic,” he said. “Indeed, this is a watershed moment for our society – a ‘pre-post’ event. The pandemic will alter public life in the same way that the Sept 11, 2001, attacks altered our understanding of security, for example.

“COVID-19 will also alter college life in a permanent manner. There are growing expectations for campus health and safety precautions, including social distancing, cleaning, and more options for delivery of courses. There are new expectations for participation in all aspects of campus life, such as athletics, performing arts and worship services.”

Gering has appointed a Fall 2020 Reopening Task Force, whose members were announced May 8.

The 10 members represent all aspects of campus life: academic affairs, admissions and financial aid, advancement, athletics, maintenance and facilities, marketing and communication, and student life.

“The charge of this task force is to prepare Bethel College to resume full operations at the beginning of the fall semester, tentatively set for Aug. 19, 2020,” Gering said.

Bethel College has experienced pandemics in the past.  

According to Professor Emeritus of History Keith Sprunger’s book Bethel College of Kansas (1887-2012), the influenza pandemic of 1918 hit Bethel College in three waves (October and December 1918, March 1919) and caused the college to suspend classes two times. Still, the semester began on time and in person.

“We will stay in close contact with the Harvey County Health Department and Emergency Management Team,” Gering said. “We will also continue to make data-driven decisions. Right now, Harvey County has no active cases of COVID-19. I hope all of our citizens will continue to practice good hygiene, social distancing and appropriate use of masks.

“Our students were recruited to an in-person, residential experience. That’s what they want. We intend to leverage our small class sizes, personal atmosphere and safe environment to provide that experience. That’s how we carry out our mission to prepare students for meaningful lives of work and service.”

Gering noted that the college will have contingency plans in the event that they must transition to online offerings at any time during the year. The college’s COVID-19 website, www.bethelks.edu/coronavirus-information, will continue to provide updates.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in Washington Monthly, Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; stands at #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities listed by lendEDU as “Best for Financial Aid”; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.