Hitting pause on in-person classes was the best way for University of Pikeville officials to get ahead of a growing COVID-19 cluster.
Pikeville President Burton Webb said the university was running out of beds — not for the 32 confirmed student cases during the late September spike — but for the more than 80 who had been exposed to the virus and needed quarantine, leading to the halting of in-person classes last month. Students will begin returning on Saturday.
Unlike their larger, public university counterparts, which can stretch larger budgets to monitor their several thousands of students, Kentucky’s small, private colleges have to work with less cash and less resources. But to many small college administrators, their size gives them a number of key strengths in their fight against COVID-19: An ability to pivot quickly if things aren’t working, and in some cases, the ability to widely test nearly the entire student body.
“We’re a rural, small college that operates on a tight budget, but we’re doing the best we can,” Webb said.
How have Kentucky’s small colleges handled COVID-19?
Kentucky’s small colleges have had varying degrees of success mitigating the spread of the virus among students.
Commonwealth Baptist College on Versailles Road has had the most cases among private colleges in Fayette County with 77 since March — 70 of those cases have come since students moved into the college in mid-August, Lexington-Fayette County Health Department spokesperson Kevin Hall said. It’s unclear how large the school’s enrollment is. Jeffery Fugate is the president of the college. He also pastors Clays Mill Baptist Church in Jessamine County, which health officials labeled as a COVID-19 hot spot in June. Fugate disputed that anyone had contracted the virus at the church.
According to its COVID dashboard, Union College in Barbourville, had