FAYETTEVILLE -- A return to face-to-face classes this fall at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will involve a campus mask requirement and "several modes of instruction" to include students trading off class attendance with one another, the university announced Monday.
A 24-page plan outlines a phased-in return to begin June 15 and culminate with all employees and students returning in August. In-person classes have been suspended since March 12 because of the covid-19 pandemic. No in-person instruction will take place before Aug. 3.
"As promised, I'm pleased to report that we now have a plan for returning to on-site campus operational status -- slowly and carefully over the summer, and, more importantly, in time to welcome students back in the fall," Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said Monday in an email to the campus.
UA's plan comes as some other large public universities have in the past few days released details about fall operations and a return of students to campus, with some schools giving more information than others about new requirements and procedures created in response to covid-19.
Steinmetz said UA's fall break -- which typically gives students a four-day weekend in October -- is being eliminated "to reduce the chances of virus spread by students who travel to other locations."
He also said "we may go to 100% remote instruction after the Thanksgiving break," though no decision has been made.
The document, titled "Guide to Returning to Campus," does not specify any procedures for widespread covid-19 testing. Gov. Asa Hutchison in May described efforts to build up the capacity for rapid testing on or near college campuses in the state.
The guide also refers to separate planning for different facets of campus life, including housing, though some changes to residential living are given a broad outline.
Mark Rushing, a UA spokesman, did not answer specific questions, instead describing the guide as "the first step in providing direction" for fall preparations.
"We have time this summer to work out specific details in some areas but now we have a plan the campus community can use to get ready for the first day of the fall semester on August 24th," Rushing said in an email.
Julia Nall, president of the Associated Student Government, said she's grateful to get details about the fall semester.
"I think so many students are so unsure about what fall is going to look like. All these details help us feel a little more secure in this time of completely massive uncertainty," said Nall, an international studies major from Bryant.
"Face coverings are required for all students, employees and visitors while on campus in public settings and where social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain," states the guide.
"I'm glad that we'll be requiring them," said Nall, 21.
Those without a mask "will be asked to leave and return with a face covering," the guide states, with those not following the requirement subject to warnings and "other sanctions available in the Employee Handbook or Code of Student Life."
Generally, UA "expects the campus community to provide their own personal face coverings."
The health and safety guidelines refer to a university committee on communicable diseases that has been in "constant communication" with local medical providers and the state Department of Health. Dr. Huda Sharaf, director of the campus medical center, is a leader of the committee.
The guide states that masks do not replace physical distancing, calling for a separation of at least 6 feet between individuals "whenever possible." The document also calls for frequent handwashing.
The guide describes how students' experience in courses may be different, with requirements for faculty and instructors to develop alternate plans for teaching.
Along with moving as many classes as possible to larger classrooms to allow for physical distancing, the guide states that classes are to have "options for adjustment." The overall guideline is "to limit the number of students allowed in individual classrooms and laboratories for social distancing purposes."
Options include having students trade off attendance to "allow some portion, perhaps one-third of the students to attend every third face-to-face lecture with the other two-thirds of the students attending the lecture remotely," or to similarly rotate attendance each week. Using classrooms on Saturdays is another option listed.
In general, departments "are urged to continue online or remote delivery whenever that is feasible and effective."
A category of weekly study sessions known as "supplemental instruction" -- provided for courses known to be historically challenging to undergraduates, according to UA's website -- is to remain online, according to the guide.
Also, faculty must prepare for sudden change.
"All instructors should design their courses to switch to 100% remote delivery at any time should circumstances surrounding the virus change," the guide states.
The June 15 date included in the plan is for when "a limited number" of workers are to return to campus. They will have new steps to take before showing up to work, as stated in the guide.
Employees "are required to complete a certification that they have self-assessed that they are not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms prior to coming to campus," the plan states. This certification "will be available digitally."
One of nine "overarching principles" in the plan is to "seek to protect the people who are at the highest risk for severe illness." The university's faculty senate in April approved a resolution supporting employee choice to work remotely.
The plan states that employees with underlying health conditions leading to a greater risk of covid-19 complications "should be referred to Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance for potential accommodations."
The guide says UA's "overall goal is to minimize the number of employees on campus while the pandemic is ongoing wherever possible."
Health and safety guidelines also refer to student self-assessments, but without giving details: "A certification process for students is being developed and will be communicated prior to the start of the fall semester," the plan states.
GREEK LIFE ALTERED
The guide describes changes to sorority recruitment, which takes place over the summer and ends in what's typically a large campus event known as Bid Day.
Recruitment events now "must conform to social-distancing requirements."
"Greek Life is exploring the most appropriate options for different types and sizes of events including in-person, virtual and hybrid approaches," the guide states.
Nall, a member of the Phi Mu sorority, said that in general, not just for Greek life, social events will pose a challenge when trying to limit crowds in a particular room or area.
"That gets so impossible, even on campus sometimes," Nall said.
The document gives a broad outline for changes to housing -- including "social distancing plans for all residential facilities" and "minimizing common areas" -- but refers to UA's housing department as preparing additional plans. General move-in is to begin Aug. 13.
Other topics touched on in the guide include daily cleaning protocols for classrooms, and that on- or off-campus living spaces will be identified for quarantine and isolation use. Testing is to be done for all contacts of a person identified as having covid-19, the guide states.
"This document is not a comprehensive listing of all the activities and plans being deployed across campus. Updates will be made to this guidance if required given the fluidity of the situation," states the guide.
A Section on 06/02/2020
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