Incoming freshman at Howard University in Northwest kick off their school year with an event at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel on Aug. 11. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Incoming freshman at Howard University in Northwest kick off the fall 2019 semester with an event at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel on Aug. 11. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Morgan State University students will get a break on tuition for the upcoming school year.

The university announced it would be freezing tuition rates for the 2020-2021 academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are aware of the current landscape and understand that these are difficult times for a number of our students and their families,” said Morgan State President David Wilson. “Due to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn, now is not the time to institute any changes that could potentially add to their financial burdens.”

Howard University hasn’t announced anything similar, and officials remain uncertain about how the fall semester will look.

“The primary consideration for me is obviously health and safety for everyone involved — students, faculty, and staff alike,” Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick told ABC News.

“A secondary factor is trying to deliver a high-quality educational product,” especially when weighing “the difference between in-person and true distance learning,” Frederick said.

As the fall semester draws closer, colleges, universities and grade school officials must determine how the upcoming year will look, particularly as the medical community continues its scramble for a cure or viable vaccine for COVID-19.

Of 780 colleges tracked by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 67 percent are planning for in-person classes, 6 percent online, 7 percent are proposing a hybrid model, 9 percent are waiting to decide, and the other 11 percent are considering a range of scenarios.

“When students return to school buildings, teachers and administrators will have the formidable duty of helping them regain academic ground while also creating a culture that cultivates community and promotes culturally responsive teaching practices,” Shirley Torho, manager of Catapult Learning, told The Informer.

“In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, some students have lost family and friends, community members, and even teachers” Torho noted. “The recent social uprisings in neighborhoods across the United States have added yet another layer of complexity and will require school leaders and classroom teachers to tackle difficult conversations and address their students’ unique needs, including experiences with trauma.”

“Rebuilding will be a daunting task,” she said. “While paying attention to students’ academic success is imperative, I believe it is essential to use a whole-child approach that accounts for their social and emotional development, mental health, connection to their families and communities, and their interests inside and outside the classroom.”

The one-size-fits-all answer to what to expect is to expect the unexpected, said Brian Galvin, chief academic officer for Varsity Tutors.

“We’re in uncharted territory here without much history or evidence to draw on as schools plan out socially-distanced classrooms and schedules, blended remote and in-person learning, contingency plans for what seems like inevitable spikes in COVID rates, and strategies for combating a historic level of learning loss,” Galvin said. “It’s like that old Mike Tyson quote, ‘everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’ — schools are working on plans, but everyone needs to plan for having to rethink those plans on the fly.”

Bara Sapir, CEO of City Test Prep, said the new school year certainly would count as different.

“The biggest difference for students will likely be social distancing procedures,” Sapir said. “If students must stay six feet away from each other, this will impact socializing with their peers.

“Students who recede or enjoy learning in groups may not enjoy the more individualized learning experience,” she said. “It may be difficult for younger kids to enjoy recess while still implementing social distancing measures. Teachers’ role to now remind students to keep their distance, wash their hands and not share paper/pencils may disrupt student learning.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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