One Year of COVID-19: A Testimony to the Strength and Character of our GMC Family

It has been a full year since Georgia Military College, with our 13 college campuses, a College Corps of Cadets and College Athletic program, along with our Preparatory School (grades 3-12), was forced to change how we operate in a way we had never experienced before. Per Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s mandate issued on March 14, 2020, all public schools were ordered to close on March 18, 2020 due to the threat of COVID-19. In anticipation of the global pandemic, GMC formed a COVID Task Force and immediately went to work to make sure GMC would continue to provide quality education for our Students by shifting all instruction to a remote setting.

All GMC and GMC Prep School Students transitioned to remote learning on March 16th and 17th in 2020. What we thought would last only two weeks, lasted much longer. All our faculty and a majority of our staff were forced to work from home and we were not allowed to bring our Students back to campus for the remaining three months of the academic year. No parades, no proms, no end of the year celebrations – it was a tough pill to swallow, as we knew our graduating Students would be missing tradition celebrations and milestones. 

It’s a blessing our leadership had the foresight early on to invest in the tools and resources providing the means to offer remote learning.  Our faculty, guided by their passion for Student success, took the helm and swiftly transitioned to a new mode of learning.  Their unwavering commitment to their Students was critical in making the transition successful.  There were bumps along the way and we learned a lot as an educational community, but in the end we can boast 1,880 college graduates for the 2019-2020 school year and for the Prep school a 100% graduation rate. 

In April, after having successfully transitioned to remote learning our COVID Task Force next took on the mission of planning a safe  return  to in-seat instruction once we were authorized to do so.  As a team, we committed to do whatever it took to put into place the systems to enable GMC to provide for a safe environment on our campuses so we could welcome back our Students, faculty, and staff for in-seat instruction to continue the traditions of GMC we all know and love. 

Our Health Services and Engineering staffs hit the ground running, working to provide supplies to our campuses to keep the campuses clean and healthy. We reworked classroom spaces, implemented new safety measures, and spent considerable funds to secure and install technology to assist us in preventing COVID from being introduced on our campuses; and if it did, to immediately eradicate it.  Most importantly we implemented our “Five Step Program”, focused on personal responsibility along with the application of new technology.

On June 1st when the Governor permitted those who were ready to resume in-seat instruction to do so, we did it immediately.  Our Prep School was the first to welcome back Students to campus for in-seat instruction teaching summer school that began that day. From there we began to phase back in our staff as we also continued to learn more about the virus and how to fight it. The preparation enabled us to continue welcoming our Students back to campus and host every summer program originally planned by our Prep School on the GMC campus. By August, the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, Students at the Prep School and every GMC campus were back on site for in-seat learning. 

Since then, things have significantly improved across our campuses. We are finally getting closer to what we consider normal at GMC. Our Prep School Fine Arts Department has hosted multiple in-seat theater performances, and our College will do so this month.  We have hosted commissioning ceremonies, graduations, award presentations, and numerous other in person events on campus.  We are also hosting our first in-person parade since this time last year, adjusting our etiquette on when you should wear a mask, and so much more. We can do this because our GMC family is committed to keeping our Students safe. 

For our GMC Board of Trustees, and our GMC Leadership Team, we celebrated this one-year mark last Friday when 70 members of our GMC Prep School faculty and staff received the first dose of the COVID vaccine on our campus. They will receive their second dose next month. This was a pivotal step in our progress, and demonstrates our commitment to return  to normalcy.  The vaccine has now been referred to as the “Sixth Step” in our Five Step Program; it is a game changer.

Over this past year our GMC Family demonstrated one more time what makes GMC so special.  It is the strength and resiliency of our Students, their Parents, our Faculty and Staff, who are all committed to ensuring our Students receive the best education possible during a very challenging time.  It is a real honor to serve with everyone who is making a real difference in the lives of our Students.  Thank you for your commitment and dedication to our Mission to embrace our dual focus on advancing the intellect and developing their Character of our Students, a unique blend exclusive to our institution since its founding in 1879.

LtGen William B. Caldwell IV (USA, Ret)

President, Georgia Military College