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University of Kentucky releases plan for fall semester

Photo: @UniversityofKy

Photo: @UniversityofKy

The University of Kentucky has released its final plan for the fall semester and it follows a model many schools are adopting during the coronavirus pandemic. Students will begin in-person classes on August 17, but the academic calendar will not include a fall break or Labor Day holiday and in-person instruction will conclude at Thanksgiving, with final examinations administered remotely after Thanksgiving break. Employees will begin to return to campus in a phased approach in mid-to-late July.

More details from UK’s “Playbook for Reinvented Operations”:

  • Undergraduate students will begin classes on August 17 (some graduate health and professional programs operate on a different calendar; students should contact their programs for more information).
  • The academic calendar will not include fall break and will include in-class instruction and campus operations on Labor Day. Final examinations will be administered remotely after Thanksgiving break.
  • Individuals in at-risk groups, or those who are living with an individual or individuals with higher risk, will work with their supervisors, directors or unit heads—in consultation with Human Resources and the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity—on potential alternatives or strategies to reduce risk and exposure. Similarly, students considered at higher risk can work with Student and Academic Life and the Disability Resource Center for alternative learning options to mitigate risk.
  • All faculty, staff and students must self-assess for symptoms daily. An updated list of symptoms based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations will be communicated to campus and be posted on campus signage. A technology-based application will be made available for daily symptom checks and assessment.
  • Students will receive a START kit with appropriate information, instructions and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Masks will be required unless individuals are alone in a room, eating, drinking, or exercising or when it interferes with required curricular activities.
  • A committee is being formed to examine potential issues with respect to masks and other requirements to ensure they are enforced equitably and fairly.
  • Social distancing practices will be required. Specifically, individuals should be at least six feet apart unless required by specific curricular activities.
  • Specific plans for individual classrooms and common areas will be developed based on area limitations and options. Occupancy in rooms will be guided by overall room capacity.
  • For classes where in-person learning is required (e.g., laboratory sciences), the university may expand hours of operation to accommodate smaller class sizes.
  • Enhanced sanitation of the environment will be conducted, and adequate hand sanitizer will be provided. Plans for regular disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and common areas will be implemented.
  • Dining halls will operate with modifications that include transition of self-serve food options to served food options and pre-packaged options. Seating in key dining areas will be significantly reduced and adjusted to comply with recommendations from the CDC and UK’s START team.
  • Room assignments in residence halls may change to ensure UK meets appropriate CDC and UK’s START team’s guidelines. The university will contact students should any changes occur.

The report notes that while the university is planning to return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester, it is preparing a backup play for fully online or remote learning should coronavirus cases surge this summer.

Here’s the message UK President Eli Capilouto sent out to students, employees, and staff:

Dear Campus Community,

I am pleased to provide you with details about our return to campus operations this summer and fall.

This plan — our playbook — is the product of the hard and thoughtful work of more than 500 colleagues on our campus and the feedback of thousands of members of our community and beyond. It strongly affirms our commitment to a residential campus experience for our students in a way that safeguards and promotes the health, safety and well-being of our entire campus community.

At the same time, it acknowledges the reality that our efforts are taking place in the midst of a necessary reckoning with systemic impacts of racism on Black communities and other communities of color across our country. We must find ways to advance our efforts to create a more just society even in the context of public health measures that compel us to implement social distancing and, in some cases, make more challenging the idea of bringing people together as a community.

We can do this. I am convinced we will thrive.

You can read more about our next steps in UK’s Playbook for Reinvented Operations in a new website devoted to our restart efforts. There, you also can read background reports, survey summaries and additional data that informed our efforts. You can also view this video about our public health commitment and principles and read this news release about the restart efforts . UK HealthCare, Research and Athletics already have initiated — and are well underway with — their restart plans. We will be continuing the discussion about the details of this report with our Board of Trustees on Friday. Below are some highlights of our plan:

The fall semester calendar

  • On-campus instruction will begin Aug. 17, which is a week earlier than originally scheduled prior to the pandemic.
  • Classes will be held on Labor Day, and the academic calendar will not include a fall break. The university will be further updating the employee holiday schedule in the near future.
  • Election Day in November is a state holiday; no classes will be held.
  • Classes will end at Thanksgiving break, and final exams will be conducted after the break in remote or online learning contexts.

Health measures for our return

  • Based on the strong recommendations of health officials, the university will require that all faculty, staff and students self-assess for symptoms daily.
  • Viral testing will be offered for all students when they return to campus. Testing also is encouraged for faculty and staff with underlying conditions, such as chronic lung disease, and for those who are over the age of 65. And, we will be working with at-risk populations to minimize exposure and mitigate risk of contracting the virus.

 Masks, social distancing and health measures

  • Wearing masks will be required unless alone in a room, while eating, drinking or exercising or when it interferes with required classroom activities. Social distancing — individuals maintaining six feet of distance — should be optimized at all times, unless required activities dictate otherwise.
  • A committee is being formed to examine potential issues with respect to masks and other requirements to ensure they are enforced equitably and fairly.

Living and dining

  • Dining halls and retail food options will re-open. Dining halls will transition to served — rather than self-serve — options.
  • Seating in dining areas across campus will be reduced in alignment with CDC and state protocols.

Classroom instruction

  • To the extent possible as dictated by the health of the campus, space constraints from social distancing and student learning objectives, courses will be delivered face-to-face.
  • ITS is installing technology in centrally scheduled classrooms that will enable flexible course delivery to accommodate faculty or students who have or develop health issues.
  • Leaders of academic units or programs will collaborate with full-time faculty, part-time instructors, and graduate teaching assistants on appropriate teaching assignments and modalities to accommodate health risks.

Returning to work

  • Non-health care employees will begin to return to campus in a phased approach in mid-to-late July. Many employees will continue to work remotely where possible.
  • Decisions to return positions to on-site work will be approved by unit supervisors, in consultation with senior administration.
  • Faculty, staff and graduate students involved in research will return to campus based on a restart plan for research that is already in place.

Over the next several weeks, the 19 workstreams formed in March in response to COVID-19 will shift their efforts fully to developing operational plans and details for our restart. Our playbook offers a clear path and direction forward, but many details must still be finalized. That work is underway in earnest now.

We will continue to communicate often, in as transparent a fashion as possible, to provide you with information as this process continues to unfold. Reopening and returning to the distinctive residential and classroom experience we provide will mean, in some cases, changing old habits and thinking of different ways to accomplish long-standing goals.

And, even as we take these steps, we must ensure that in social distancing to protect our health we find ways to draw closer together as a community, united in common purpose toward a greater sense of understanding around shared values. We can do this. I am convinced we will thrive. After all, this is who we are. This is what we do.

Thank you for being a community so committed to our shared mission.

Eli Capilouto

For more details, including information on residence halls, on-campus dining, and student life, check out the entire status report on UK’s website.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.