On the same day Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley said public campuses aim to resume in-person instruction in the fall if health conditions permit, the California State University System chancellor announced online classes will continue for the fall.
Whether Cal State is being overly cautious or the University System of Georgia overly optimistic won’t become clear until the fall when we see whether a second wave of the coronavirus hits.
Both chancellors detailed coronavirus plans today to the overseers of higher education in their states, Wrigley to the Board of Regents and Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White to the Board of Trustees.
Cal State is the nation’s largest public system, with nearly half a million students across 23 campuses. Georgia has 330,000 students across 26 campuses.
“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” said White. “That approach, sadly, just isn’t in the cards now as I have described.”
White cited possible exceptions for content that doesn’t transfer easily to virtual format, including critical labs and clinical nursing classes.
Discussing Georgia’s intention to open in fall, Wrigley emphasized the system will follow the guidance of state health officials. If a condition of reopening is contact tracing when students test positive for COVID-19, the Georgia Department of Public Health will do the tracing, said Wrigley
The chancellor shared a new video targeting students that uses campus mascots to emphasize social distancing, handwashing and avoiding large groups.
A planning group led by University of Georgia President Jere Morehead is at work on how best to restore in-person instruction, said Wrigley.
Morehead cheered up UGA students last week with a note saying:
We are anticipating a resumption of in-person instruction for the Fall Semester beginning in August 2020 for all USG institutions. However, I would emphasize that this situation remains a fluid one, as the USG monitors developments related to COVID-19 and receives counsel from state public health officials.
Guidance could be subject to change, even after our plans are put in place. We will need to remain flexible and patient as we move forward.
“We are being very thorough in our approach to reopening,” said USG spokesman Aaron Diamant later in the day. “That is a very big asterisk -- if public health guidelines allow for it.”
The Cal State decision may influence other public colleges to remain online. Still unknown is which way California’s second public system, the University of California System, will go with its 10 campuses.
Most U.S. colleges say they will try to return to face-to-face instruction, albeit with smaller classes, strict distancing protocols and possible hybrid approaches that blend online and in-person teaching. Some schools may postpone start dates by a few weeks with hopes that health risks subside.
Still, schools are hedging their bets by advising faculty to be prepared for anything and everything.
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