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USU, SUU and UVU join University of Utah in return to in-person classes this fall, with modifications

By Marjorie Cortez, KSL | Posted - May 27, 2020 at 8:30 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State University, Southern Utah University and Utah Valley University will return to in-person classes this fall, joining the University of Utah, which earlier confirmed it will resume on-campus classes fall term.

USU President Noelle Cockett in a statement Wednesday said students had responded to the university’s pivot to online instruction for spring and summer terms “with grace and resilience and we are excited to again see them come to our campuses.”

Colleges and universities nationwide moved to distance learning for the spring semester and summer term due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some do not plan to resume on-campus classes this fall, including Harvard University, which has announced it will conduct online classes for first-year medical, dental and graduate students.

California State University system, the largest nationwide, has also announced it will hold fall semester online.

But in Utah, a growing number of institutions plan to resume face-to-face instruction, albeit with new protocols.

At USU, students can expect diverse methods of instructional delivery such as in-person classrooms, hybrid or blended learning, or online delivery in some cases.

The university will implement state guidelines on face coverings, sanitizing and social distancing while limiting the number of students in classrooms and other prevention precautions.

Cockett said USU will release more details about fall semester over the coming weeks.

“Students and their parents should monitor university communications for that information, knowing that USU will be ready,” she said in a statement.

Southern Utah University also announced a return of in-person classes this fall, according to a statement issued Wednesday.

“This is a significant step in getting back to a sense of normalcy,” said SUU President Scott Wyatt.

“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,” Wyatt said.

SUU’s reopening campus plan is under development and will be released at a later date. It will include social distancing, diagnostic testing and contact tracing.

Meanwhile, Utah Valley University announced its plans to offer students multiple options this fall, including face-to-face instruction. UVU will also support remote learning and hybrid classes that include both in-person and online education.

Social-distancing guidelines, facilities sanitation, hand sanitizer stations, increased airflow, and the recommendation of face masks are some of precautionary measures that will be taken when the fall semester begins Aug. 24.

UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez said in a statement that the university’s core values of exceptional care, accountability and results will guide it “during the complexities of these unusual times.”

She added: “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.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Utah System of Higher Education COVID-19 Higher Education Task Force released a plan to help Utah public colleges and universities resume onsite operations for the fall semester.

“Though we can’t fully predict what the fall will look like, we feel we are on a trajectory to welcome our students back to campus while taking necessary precautions,” said David Woolstenhulme, interim Commissioner of Higher Education.

“We have worked, and will continue to work, to be as adaptable in our plans as possible as we receive updated recommendations from state and federal leaders to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and broader communities.”

The system guidelines include:

  • Disease prevalence: The prevalence of the disease must be low enough to safely resume campus operations.
  • 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.
  • Contact tracing: Higher education leaders must obtain adequate resources and capacity for contact tracing to supplement local public health departments with on-campus efforts.
  • Public health guidelines specific to higher education: Colleges and universities should follow the state’s public health guidelines for colleges and universities, which include face coverings, physical distancing, and population densities of residence halls, dining facilities and classrooms.
  • Adequate personal protective equipment: Adequate supplies of PPE and face coverings must be available to public colleges and universities.
  • Health care surge capacity: Adequate capacity must be available in nearby health care facilities and hospitals.
  • Liability protection: Utah has adopted a “safe harbor” from liability for those institutions that bring students back to campus and take reasonable steps to comply with state guidelines and planning outlined by the Utah System of Higher Education.
  • Institution plan: Using the Utah Leads Together plan and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance specific to higher education, each college or university must develop a plan for on-site operations that includes active monitoring of health conditions to ensure the detection of infection; containing and preventing the spread of the disease if detected; and shutting down operations either because of a serious outbreak on campus or statewide orders from the governor.

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