The Navy’s higher education programs are still developing COVID-19 mitigation strategies for fall classes – a little more than a month before officers and midshipmen start arriving at campuses.
The U.S. Naval Academy, the Naval War College and Naval Postgraduate School have different issues to sort out when planning for the fall.
The Naval Academy plans to bring midshipmen to Annapolis for Plebe Summer at the end of June. Plebes will spend the first two weeks at the academy in a restriction of movement (ROM) status. The class of 2024 will kick off Plebe Summer by spending 14 days reading manuals while confined to Bancroft Hall, according to the academy.
For the rest of the USNA brigade, the Naval Academy is still considering options to conduct the fall semester. The Brigade of Midshipmen left for spring break in March 2020 and did not return because of COVID-19.
The Naval War College requires all students for the 2020-2021 academic year arriving in Newport, R.I., to conduct a 14-day ROM.
“We are evaluating how to safely conduct our orientation, but plan for it to still begin 28 July. Some of the tools we use are Zoom, Blackboard and Microsoft Teams,” reads a statement from the Naval War College.
The schools are seeking to replicate the apparent success in mitigating the spread of the virus at the Navy’s enlisted boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. The Recruit Training Command started placing all incoming recruits in a 14-day ROM on April 20. Three weeks earlier, on March 30, the Navy’s recruit training pipeline was shuttered after a recruit tested positive for COVID-19 at the Recruit Training Center.
Since then, Navy officials have stated the 14-ROM has sufficiently reduced the risk of COVID-19 spreading through the recruit classes.
“The mitigation measures we’ve put in place at Recruit Training Command have been extremely effective, and proof of that success can be found in the numbers,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell said in a recent email to USNI News.
The Naval Postgraduate School is conducting distance learning courses during the summer. However, small numbers of students are allowed to attend in-person classes to perform lab work and research and take part in classified classes.
“The summer quarter at NPS will primarily consist of education delivered via distance learning, as it is the safest delivery method during periods of directed shelter-in-place,” reads a statement from the school.
NPS, though, is in California, which is not included on the list of Department of Defense locations meeting conditions needed to lift travel restrictions, Dale Kuska, a spokesperson for the Naval Postgraduate School, told USNI News.
“It is very difficult to predict what will happen between now and the fall quarter. NPS has developed a ‘Phased Return to Campus Plan’ that is responsive to local conditions, so we will be able to respond to what the circumstances allow,” Kuska said.