SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah plans to resume on-campus classes this fall, albeit with modifications to ensure safety of students, employees and visitors.
U. spokesman Christopher Nelson said the university is working on multiple scenarios for fall, “designed to deliver on-campus, in-person experiences that make the college years memorable for a lifetime.”
Much of the U.’s spring term and all of summer term moved to online instruction due to public health guidelines necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fall term will look different than before, with the university offering smaller classes to ensure safe physical distancing. That will mean more sessions throughout the day and evening.
Some classes will be offered via hybrid instruction, meaning a mix of classroom and online instruction.
Virtual tools will be available to allow students to work in pairs.
The university plans to offer lab, studio, interactive and creative experiences for small groups.
Nelson said students who live, dine, study and recreate on campus will also experience changes intended to promote public health.
According to the university’s Housing and Residential Education website, the U. plans provide an on-campus living experience that “supports students’ needs and abides by public health guidelines.”
Some examples of the changes may include “increased cleaning and sanitization of high-touch areas.”
Dining areas may have modified seating arrangements or be limited to carry-out service.
While the university plans some changes in programming and operations it is also counting on students to help with regular hand-washing and other good hygiene habits.
Public health advisories, knowledge about novel coronavirus transmission and efforts to develop a vaccine are evolving so the planning process will be fluid, Nelson said.
“The most important thing is getting this right. We have to get it right,” he said.
Leavitt Partners CEO Andrew Crowshaw recently told the Utah Board of Regents that monitoring for outbreaks and managing incidents when they occur, which could mean a campus shutdown, are two of the most important considerations as Utah’s colleges plan to reopen this fall.
“Nobody wants to think about that but these are large and complex institutions with many considerations and connections with community. So having thought through a shutdown plan is an important part of being prepared in the unlikely but potential situation that would become necessary,” Crowshaw said.
Contact tracing and coronavirus testing also play roles in plans to safely reopen campuses, he said.
Utah State University President Noelle Cockett said the No. 1 question parents and students ask about fall term is whether USU will have in-person classes this fall.
“We will, we absolutely will. It will not be full and it will not necessarily be a class that is all in person,” she said in a recent meeting.
More specific plans are expected to be released by Utah’s public colleges and universities when the Utah System of Higher Education announces a systemwide strategy for repopulating campuses, possibly later this week.