SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Some colleges and university officials said there are plans to reopen their campuses and resume some in-person classes this fall, but coming back requires extensive planning and safety precautions.
Utah universities and their plans to reopen, resume classes
“Universities are built to bring people together, not to separate them,” said Chris Nelson, a University of Utah spokesman. “So, you know, our desires like how to provide that campus experience but do it in a safe way.”
Nelson said the University of Utah plans to have their students back on campus this fall. However, it will be a hybrid approach so if COVID-19 restrictions tighten, they can switch over easily to online learning.
“Since we’re in Salt Lake City, we’re going to have to be very agile – because if the city goes back to an orange level, we’ll do so as well,” Nelson said.
For students and staff at Utah State University, school president Noelle Cockett said education will be taught in-person, hybrid delivery, blended learning or online.
“We will be releasing more details about fall semester over the next several weeks, and students and their parents should monitor university communications for that information, knowing that USU will be ready,” Cockett said.
At Weber State university, spokeswoman Allison Hess Barlow said they too plan to resume classes on campus and utilize online courses as much as possible, while like others – work to keep a safe environment.
“We’re certainly going to be asking people to wear masks, we’re going to be trying to accommodate social distancing,” Barlow Hess said.
For those attending Utah Valley University, president Astrid Tuminez said the Utah County school plans to offer several course delivery options that include face-to-face, remote learning and hybrid classes.
“Our doors and our hearts will always be open to every student who desires an education — including those who choose to join us on campus and those who prefer to be together from afar. At UVU, we are one community. We are resilient, we are agile, and we are dedicated to student success.”
At Southern Utah University, president Scott Wyatt said the school plans to resume on-campus classes, and that they will be slightly different – noting a plan is still in the works.
“This is a significant step in getting back to a sense of normalcy,” Wyatt said. “However, when students come to campus for the fall semester the on-campus experience will be slightly different. We’ll take precautions to protect our campus community. We all have a responsibility to protect each other. I can promise, though, we’ll still provide the atmosphere that makes SUU a great home away from home.”
On-campus learning will also be available for students at Dixie State University, said spokesman Dr. Jordon Sharp – who said they are also working to give students the best opportunity to learn in a variety of ways.
“We’re putting a lot of things in place to ensure their health and safety – and also flexibility for our students,” said Dr. Jordon Sharp, with the university. “Because we understand that might be an issue for certain students.”
Utah colleges and their plans to reopen, resume classes
Westminster College spokesman Arikka Von said while the college’s campus continues to be open at this time, she said officials plan to resume in-person classes this fall, with an adjusted academic calendar.
“It was clear after abruptly moving to remote instruction in the spring that our students missed parts of the Westminster experience that they have come to expect and love. They need places to live, learn, work and play safely in as supportive and challenging an environment as is possible,” said college president Bethami Dobkin. “Our careful planning includes safety and flexibility to shift back to more remote work and learning if needed.”
At Snow College, president Bradley Cook and provost Steven Hood said they also plan to reopen their campus and face-to-face classes, adding that they want their students to be successful in their education.
“We may look a little bit different as we implement practices for physical distancing when you arrive for classes, but we will remain focused on providing the best education for you,” Cook and Hood said. “We care about your physical safety, your mental well-being, and your academic success.”
On May 18th, five of Salt Lake Community College campuses reopened with limited services, and come fall, the plan to resume in-person classes
College spokesman Joy Tlou said the school is prepared to safely welcome students back.
As for the LDS Business College and Brigham Young University, spokespersons said a decision has yet to be made.
“BYU is currently studying a number of options for fall semester,” reads a press release from university officials. “BYU’s first priority, however, must always be the health and safety of the members of its campus community. For this reason, BYU’s leadership will continue to work closely with state and county health officials, as the university studies the possibility of holding classes on campus or continuing with remote learning. Given the uncertain conditions in Provo and elsewhere, BYU may not be able to make a final decision until July.”
What safety precautions will schools take?
Each of the higher education institutes that plan to reopen this fall, said they will follow public health guidelines and protocols to ensure the safety of students and staff.
On Wednesday, the Utah System of Higher Education released a plan for schools to safely welcome their students back.
USHE proposes the following gating conditions as part of its guidelines for the fall 2020 semester:
- Disease Prevalence. The prevalence of the disease must be low enough to safely resume campus operations. For nonresidential campuses, as well as science labs, libraries, and many graduate programs, the gating criteria for business and commercial operations should apply. For residential undergraduate programs, public health officials recommend a sustained low and non-increasing rate of new hospitalizations in the state and in the local health districts surrounding each college.
- Diagnostic Testing Supplies. Higher education leaders must work with state leaders to ensure that colleges and universities have adequate supplies of diagnostic tests and adequate financial support to obtain, administer, and process them. Nonresidential institutions should be able to test symptomatic students, faculty, and staff. Residential institutions should also be able to test students upon arrival and at appropriate intervals thereafter in accordance with prevailing public health guidance.
- Contact Tracing. Higher education leaders must obtain adequate resources and capacity for contact tracing to supplement local public health departments with on-campus efforts.
- Higher Education-Specific Health Guidelines. Colleges and universities should follow Utah’s specific public health guidelines for colleges and universities, including face coverings, physical distancing, and population densities of residence halls, dining facilities, and classrooms.
- Adequate PPE Supplies. Adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and face coverings must be available to public colleges and universities.
- Healthcare Surge Capacity. Adequate surge capacity must be available in nearby health care facilities and hospitals.
- Liability Protection. Utah has adopted an appropriate “safe harbor” from liability for those institutions that bring students back to campus and take reasonable steps to comply with state guidelines and complete the planning efforts outlined in this report.
- Institution Plan. Incorporating the guidance provided by the Utah Leads Together plan and state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance specific to higher education, each institution must develop a plan for onsite operations that includes the following four elements:
- A plan for repopulating the campus (likely a phased process).
- A plan for active monitoring of health conditions to ensure the detection of infection.
- A plan for containing and preventing the spread of the disease if detected.
- A plan for shutting down operations in the event it becomes necessary, either because of a serious outbreak on campus or statewide orders from the Governor.
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