ATHENS, Ohio — Ohio University recently provided an update on it’s plans for a return to campus this fall with a letter from President M. Duane Nellis to the university community.
Dear University Community,
I am writing today to share an update on the collaborative effort to plan for a return to campus and to face-to-face instruction in the fall semester. As we announced in May and as a follow up to my June 5 message to campus, we convened eight work groups focused on various planning considerations as well as a Coordinating Council with representation from each of our five senates, to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive plan for a safe return to campus. We also called for input through our Fall Planning website, where you can also find a report of the feedback we received.
On Monday, June 15, the Coordinating Council submitted its final Report and Recommendations to President’s Council. That report has been further shared with leadership of our Faculty, Administrative, Classified, Student and Graduate Student Senates as well as Academic Deans for feedback and revision this week. With those revisions, I am accepting the recommendations of this report with plans to move forward toward implementation. The report includes areas noted as needing further planning or process development, and we will continue to engage our university community in that effort. We want to thank the faculty, staff and students who were involved in this inclusive planning process, which is an important step as we prepare for a safe return to our campuses.
I also want to emphasize to our faculty, staff and students that we continue to be deeply committed to minimizing risk to members of our University and surrounding communities as we move forward. We have heard concerns from faculty, staff and students who are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and the Fall Planning Report and Recommendations calls out the need to develop a clear process for students, faculty and staff who are high risk to receive remote education or work from home options. It will be essential to articulate that process in the coming days.
To our students: know that this fall semester will be unlike any other. We must take serious precautions as we return to campuses, including requiring the wearing of masks, reducing density in classrooms, and offering some courses in a remote or hybrid environment. Within that reality, we are committed to continuing the opportunities for collaborative learning and the strong sense of community that you have come to expect at Ohio University.
Highlights of the Fall Planning Report and Recommendations include:
Our planning for this fall includes a combination of the use of appropriate face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, limited density in indoor spaces, control of the flow of traffic into and around buildings, continued employee teleworking when possible, symptoms tracking and contact tracing.
Academic Experience and Academic Calendar
This fall, we will offer an academic experience that combines both in-person and virtual methods. Maximum occupancy will be reduced in occupied learning spaces, such as classrooms, laboratories, studio/creative activity spaces, workshops, and group learning/study rooms to ensure safe distancing while on-campus. Classroom space will be prioritized to ensure face-to-face delivery of experiential learning courses and first-year seminars.
Our academic calendar will also be adjusted as part of the return plan. Fall semester will start on schedule on Monday, August 24, with a planned early departure from on-campus activities the weekend before Thanksgiving break. November 20, 2020 will be the last day on campus for fall semester, and the final portion of instruction, plus examination/assessment week will be conducted remotely. In addition, fall break will be eliminated to reduce student travel during the semester.
Dining and Housing
We will redesign the move-in schedule to allow additional days for physical distancing strategies and create a centralized check in on each green to minimize exposure during arrival. The University is designing a plan to reduce population density in residence halls when students return to campus for the fall semester, and dining options will include carryout and to-go options initially with strategic introduction of dine-in options, as determined appropriate.
We are working diligently to meet our community’s needs as we balance risk while advancing our academic mission. We have benefitted greatly from innovative and creative learning experiences that were necessary in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these will continue to be part of the solution for the foreseeable future as we ease back into in-person educational experiences.
In the coming weeks, as we continue our planning process, we will keep you informed through regular updates and forums. I appreciate your flexibility and patience as we continue to work together for a safe and seamless fall semester and encourage you to visit www.ohio.edu/coronavirus for news and information. Should we see a shift in the progression of the pandemic or receive new public health guidance, we will adjust accordingly.
While Ohio University’s typical and traditional operations have been disrupted by the existence of COVID-19, it is important for all members of our University community to embrace a culture of care for one another. We must acknowledge that, in navigating a worldwide health crisis, individuals are impacted differently by both the threat to health and to our operational changes. We seek to interact with one another in a caring, respectful manner and with an overarching desire to help our community remain safe and connected to one another while fulfilling the mission of Ohio University.
M. Duane Nellis