Bethany Theological Seminary has announced details about reopening its campus, with plans to resume in-person classes in late August 2020. Since mid-March, Bethany Center has been closed to students and all employees have been working almost exclusively from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Jeff Carter noted that the plans are based on guidance from the federal, state, and local governments, and that they prioritize the health and safety of the extended Bethany community while emphasizing the educational needs of students. Using the mission as a guide, Seminary leadership are placing the priority on classroom and educational activities with campus community activities and support activities reconfigured to allow for appropriate social distancing. Carter noted that plans could change in response to the evolving public health situation.
Following is a summary of Bethany’s reopening timeline:
Phase 1 (current phase, in place since mid-March): only essential staff (finance, maintenance, and custodial) are working on site, and only for limited periods of time. Other staff are working almost exclusively from home. The Bethany Center is closed to students and visitors.
Phase 2 (beginning July 20): in addition to essential staff listed above, employees with direct student responsibilities will begin working from Bethany Center, with rotating schedules and other measures to limit exposure to the coronavirus. While Bethany Center will remain closed to visitors, those who need to access the building may make appointments to do so.
Phase 3 (beginning August 27): classes will be offered on campus with students in the classroom. Most employees will continue to spend a large portion of their working hours at home. The Seminary will put measures in place to allow for proper social distancing, limit the number of people in the building, and require self-screening, hand washing, mask wearing, and other protocols to protect the health and safety of students and employees. The Seminary is also encouraging residential students to practice social distancing while away from campus, including in “The Neighborhood” of Seminary-owned houses where students live.
Members of the Seminary’s leadership team will be present in Bethany Center on select days each week and will regularly review operations and adjust as necessary to address any health and safety concerns. For the time being, most work meetings, worship, and social gatherings will take place via video conferencing. When appropriate, classes and other gatherings may take place outdoors.
Bethany is working closely with Earlham College and the Earlham School of Religion to make sure reopening plans are well coordinated. The leadership team is optimistic about the Seminary’s ability to fulfill its missions despite the unusual challenges that a global pandemic presents.
“We are asking all in our community to commit to ‘Golden Rule Practices’ in order to keep one another healthy and safe,” says Carter. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Bethany community has demonstrated a remarkable ability to show care for one another and to adapt to unusual circumstances. I am confident that whatever else happens, we will continue to provide an excellent education to our students and that we will remain a close knit and mutually supportive community.”