Emory University released its plans today, which include bringing students back, but with several requirements. Among them: Students will have to wear face coverings whenever on campus and outside of their immediate residence.

Emory: Campus will open with masks, testing, protocols and classes over by Thanksgiving

In online groups for parents of college students, I find two camps. One is planning for college to resume in normal fashion, asking what freshman women wear to rush or where to stay during October parents’ weekends.

The other camp is worried, saying their college students will sit out the fall semester on campus, either through online classes or a gap year, because they don’t feel colleges can open safely, no matter what they do.

Universities are unlikely to fully satisfy both contingents, although they are trying with plans that provide return to campus and full-time virtual options.

Emory released its plans today, which include bringing students back to the Atlanta campus, but with major requirements and changes. 

Emory will offer both online and in-person classes this fall under an academic calendar that will shift to start on August 19, with classes ending by Thanksgiving and exams conducted remotely.

COVID-19 testing will be mandatory for all students living in residence halls, along with those taking in-person classes, upon or shortly before returning to campus, and will be available at any time during the semester for those who are symptomatic and for their close contacts.

Residence halls will have no more than two students per room. 

 While the University System of Georgia plans to encourage face masks, Emory will require them. Students will have to wear face coverings whenever on campus and outside of their immediate residence. 

Facial coverings will be required in classrooms and hallways. Faculty may wear facial coverings or shields. Some classrooms may also have Plexiglas barriers to accommodate faculty who prefer to teach that way.

The health plan defines “on campus” as:

The university defines it as all Emory-owned and affiliated properties. If you are outdoors and alone engaged in recreation in Lullwater Preserve, for example, you may not need to wear a mask, but you should have one with you. After all, you never know when you might want to stop to talk with others...To be effective, face coverings need to cover your entire nose, mouth, and chin. For many people on campus, wearing a face covering is a new experience, and it takes some getting used to, especially in the Georgia heat. Wearing a face covering, though, is effective for reducing risk of infection in our community. It is also a sign of respect for others. Wearing face coverings will be required for all persons on campus—this includes while teaching (unless at a distance and behind a shield) and attending class, in your personal office and corridors, and while in residence halls. 

Emory is also providing students with thermometers to check their temperature. The university will place hand sanitizing stations throughout campus. Emory intends to reduce density on campus by allowing staff work remotely when possible and limiting gatherings to reduce the number of people on campus at any given time. Campus dining will be available, and Emory will expand outdoor dining  and grab & go options.

On classes, the detailed health and safety plan also says:

Class sizes will be reduced and/or rescheduled for spaces large enough to support physical distancing. In cases in which it is not possible to reduce the class size, we may schedule classes in larger venues that are not normally used for instruction. Class scheduling will be adjusted to allow for more time for students and faculty to travel from one class to another, since ingress and egress may take longer due to the need to maintain physical distancing. Some larger spaces may have staggered entry times.

Here is Emory’s announcement this morning of its plans:

Emory University students will return to campus for the 2020 fall semester under a plan announced today by President Claire E. Sterk and Emory President-elect Gregory L. Fenves.  

In a letter to the community, Sterk and Fenves outlined the plan’s major features, which include: offering students both online and in-person classes on campus; shifting the academic calendar to start on Aug. 19, with classes ending by Thanksgiving and end-of-semester exams conducted remotely.  

A comprehensive science- and data-based health and safety plan, which includes COVID-19 testing, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols, also will be implemented.  

“While much will be different this fall, there are core elements of the Emory experience that will remain the same,” write Sterk and Fenves.  

“We will deliver courses that meet Emory’s rigorous standards and that are taught by our world-renowned faculty, members of the academic campus community will have access to the tremendous resources of our research university, and students will be part of a community known for its support while our students are pursuing degrees with us and throughout their careers. We will deliver an equivalent Emory experience, knowing the necessity of health and safety protocols will prevent us from providing an identical experience to past years.” 

Details of the plan and updates are available at the Emory Forward website.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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