First in Virginia to start classes early

Posted on June 25, 2020 by Dana Poleski

Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar College has made significant progress in its effort to resume in-person instruction. Fall semester classes will begin on Aug. 11, making it the first higher education institution in Virginia to start this soon. The early date will allow students to finish their classes, return home for Thanksgiving and remain there during a period that experts say could carry COVID-19 risks. The 2020 – 2021 academic calendar has the complete schedule for the year.

Reaction to the College’s “Safe, Spacious, and Ready” plan has been encouraging, and admissions deposits are tracking 14% ahead of last year at this time. Aspects of the College that help facilitate a safe environment include the 8-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, expansive campus and new 26,000-foot greenhouse that will provide fresh, farm-to-table food for students as well as the local food bank.

The College will conduct regular testing and require everyone to wear a face covering Sweet Briar has identified Patteson House for isolation of those who test positive for COVID-19 or those who need to be quarantined, because they’re either symptomatic or exposed to a symptomatic person, but not yet confirmed positive.

Sweet Briar plans will always be in compliance with Virginia regulations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The College also is making a significant investment in remote learning technology for all classes so it can be used when needed.

Every Woman Can Have a Single Room

These steps are in addition to the earlier announcement that the College plans to offer a single dormitory room to every student who wants and needs one—a unique offering in higher education.

President Meredith Woo says, “We believe that small colleges, and particularly our institution, are best equipped to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. It behooves the policy makers to let these colleges thrive so they can continue to serve both their students and the surrounding communities that depend on them. The first step is by not imposing the one-size-fits-all solutions that are created for a different set of circumstances.”

A History of Health and Safety

A century ago, Sweet Briar faced a similar challenge: the Spanish flu pandemic. The College made the best use of its practice of in loco parentis — a college in place of a parent — by repeatedly checking on every student, providing excellent medical care, and making sure the campus was as safe as home, and even safer. Not a single person was lost at Sweet Briar, even in the pandemic that mostly claimed the lives of young men and women.

1919 Briar Patch yearbook Spanish Flu An illustration from the