Georgia Tech releases reopening plan: Classes end by Thanksgiving but no mandated masks or universal testing

Georgia Tech released its fall reopening plan, which features a compressed schedule in which classes end at Thanksgiving.

Tech will provide students in dorms with thermometer,  mask,  sanitizer and disinfectant wipes

Georgia Tech released its fall reopening plan today, which features a compressed schedule in which classes end at Thanksgiving, five delivery modes of instruction that include hybrid and remote classes, testing of students with symptoms, dorm reconfigurations to eliminate triple or quad rooms and limits on campus events.

Cloth masks will be provided, and their use will be “strongly encouraged,” but not mandated.

The Tech reopening plan and likely all of those for University System of Georgia public campuses echo Emory's blueprint, released earlier this month, except for the failure to mandate masks, a surprising omission given the new information on the role face coverings play in impeding infections.

Also, Emory will require COVID-19 testing of all students living in residence halls, along with those taking in-person classes.  At this point, Tech says testing will be available for symptomatic students, and it is “exploring options to expand additional testing on campus for asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff. “

Here is what Tech sent parents:

The fall calendar looks different, but students will have the same number of contact days with instructors. Changes have been made to discourage travel, including canceling the two-day fall break currently scheduled for Oct. 5-6 and ending fall instruction by Thanksgiving break. Reading days and final assessments will be administered in a hybrid format, and the calendar will be modified, as follows:

  • Aug. 17: Start of classes
  • Sept. 7: Labor Day holiday
  • Nov. 23-24: Final instructional days (no new material or scheduling of any other assessments)
  • Nov. 25-29: Thanksgiving break
  • Nov. 30-Dec. 8: Reading days and final assessments
  • Dec. 9-10 or 11-12: Commencement

Class Types and Schedules 
Aiming to retain as much face-to-face experience as possible, Fall 2020 courses will be held in one of five delivery modes, from a traditional format in cases where physical distancing is a viable option to a variety of hybrid options that leverage online technology. 
The five modes include:

Residential: Courses/sections that are residential with physical distancing measures in place in the classroom. This is the traditional format that we are treating as the desired option.

Remote with limited in-person instruction (hybrid):

Hybrid hands-on: Courses/sections will offer lectures via remote delivery and bring students to a classroom for hands-on studios and lab activities with social distancing measures in place.

Hybrid touch points: Courses/sections will offer lectures in an online format and will bring students to the classroom several times during the semester for meaningful in-person experiences.

Hybrid split: Courses/sections will offer lectures both in class and through broadcast recordings using classroom technology but will also bring smaller groups of students to the classroom on a predetermined basis with social distancing measures in place.

Remote: Courses/sections that are completely remote and delivered online (e.g., OMSCS courses).

Due to a limited supply of instructional space that can accommodate appropriate physical distancing, we will prioritize certain classes for in-person delivery: lab classes, group project classes, senior design classes, small discussion classes, and classes that require interaction with physical projects and equipment in most or all sessions. Details about which courses will be taught via which mode of instruction are still being worked out.
To the best of our ability, we will prioritize the courses needed by graduating students, phase in campus activities as soon as feasible, expand course delivery options and schedules to compensate for reduced class sizes due to physical distancing, expand the pool of students, and allow for flexibility in campus options. 
Study Abroad and Other International Programs 
We have canceled all study abroad, international internships, exchange programs, and any Georgia Tech-sponsored international curricular and co-curricular travel programs for Fall 2020. We will welcome students to our Georgia Tech-Lorraine and Georgia Tech-Shenzhen campuses on Aug. 31 and Aug. 17, respectively, and are implementing plans to minimize health risks and ensure academic continuity in the event programs are disrupted during the semester. 
 Campus Safety
Georgia Tech will retrain staff, adopt new cleaning methods, and redirect select operations to provide more time for cleaning and disinfection. Other precautions will include installation of signage to encourage best practices regarding personal hygiene and the movement of people through campus spaces, upgraded air filtration systems, workspace modifications, and staggered scheduling for on-campus community members. Setup in offices, classrooms, labs, makerspaces, etc. will be modified to facilitate physical distancing and enable cleaning and disinfection protocols. 
In order to maintain physical distancing, we will continue to encourage everyone who can telework to continue to do so. 
 Screening and Testing 
Georgia Tech will continue to encourage teleworking, split shifts, staggered shifts, and other measures that promote physical distancing, and those who can work remotely should continue to do so to the extent that teleworking does not affect our ability to serve students. 
We will ask all members of the community to administer the Covid-19 Daily Self-Screening Questions before coming to campus or leaving their residence. We will deploy thermal screening in strategic locations. When any member of the Georgia Tech community tests positive for, or is diagnosed with, Covid-19, we will follow direction and guidance from the GDPH. We will ensure that students in isolation or quarantine continue to receive dining, health, and academic services. 
Testing is available for symptomatic students at Stamps Health Center. We're exploring options to expand additional testing on campus for asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff. 
 Personal Protective Equipment 
Georgia Tech will centrally manage the acquisition and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide reusable cloth face coverings to the community before the semester begins. Usage and purchasing needs will be continuously monitored and will require input from units into the centrally managed system. 
During the fall semester, members of the Georgia Tech community are strongly encouraged to wear a cloth face covering on campus. Cloth face coverings are important in preventing transmission. There may be scenarios in which face coverings are required, and a process for documenting and approving those scenarios is being developed. All members of the Georgia Tech community who are typically required to wear a face mask or other personal protective equipment should continue to do so.
 Housing
All triple and quadruple room occupancy will be eliminated for Fall 2020. We will work to maximize the number of single occupancy options available. To lower the risk in residence halls, we will use extensive signage and other communication touch points to strongly urge and promote physical distancing, wearing appropriate PPE, frequent handwashing, limiting close exposure to others, and maintaining overall health awareness. 
We will provide all residential students with a kit upon move-in, including a thermometer, a cloth mask, health information, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and tips for how residents can best access campus services, such as periodic disinfectant fogging. Move-in and move-out procedures will be staggered to limit crowding in hallways and elevators. 
 Dining 
Changes for Fall 2020 include eliminating salad bars, buffets, and soup stations and providing grab-and-go options at all dining halls. Food will be prepackaged in single-serving containers. Dining hall staff will serve all food that is not prepackaged. We will reduce the seating capacity of each dining hall and increase the number of standalone market stands, food carts, and food trucks to encourage physical distancing. 
All staff will wear appropriate PPE for food service and cleanliness as outlined in CDC guidelines, all dining operations will temporarily shut down after meal shifts for thorough cleaning, and each facility will be disinfected overnight. 
 Student life/Student Organizations 
Student organizations will be asked to follow physical distancing guidelines. We encourage staff to offer appointments, meetings, and trainings in a hybrid model (online and in person), and we encourage organizations to move events, activities, and meetings online whenever possible. Access to common spaces will be limited, and in-person functions will require everyone to wear PPE. If organizations cannot readily move events, activities, and meetings online, student leaders will be encouraged to revise event plans to provide strict physical distancing guidelines or consider postponement or cancellation. 
 Athletics 
The Georgia Tech Athletic Association is researching and working on a plan for a possible return to competitive operations in Fall 2020. Any return to competitive athletics will follow guidance from the NCAA, Atlantic Coast Conference, USG, and government health authorities. 
 Events
Campus event spaces will operate with reduced occupancy and physical distancing practices. All campus visitors and attendees at campus events will be expected to follow Georgia Tech's health and safety guidelines. All campus events will be subject to a central review process, we will limit event attendance to comply with social distancing guidelines, and we will require event sponsors to produce health and safety plans to qualify for event approval. 
 Research
At the start of the fall semester, we will continue to prioritize research requiring campus access. Additionally, research activities on hold during the summer will begin to resume. We advise all researchers to continue completing duties off-site that do not require campus access. Research at field sites will be allowed to resume depending on several factors, including travel restrictions, stay-at-home directives, and density and physical distancing requirements. The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has also outlined a plan to increase on-site presence over the course of the summer. GTRI anticipates bringing 75% or more of its workforce on-site daily by the end of the summer. 
 Contingency planning
Given the uncertainty of Covid-19, we have prepared to move seamlessly from one method of instruction and operations to the other as public health guidance and conditions dictate. 
We've developed plans that respond to multiple scenarios as outlined by the University System of Georgia. 
We are evaluating multiple contingency measures under the current plan. For example:

Residential-spread and hybrid courses will be designed with a contingency plan in place to move to remote delivery if necessary.

Supervisors in every department across the Institute will have their own contingency plans in place that align with USG, CDC, and GDPH guidelines and the governor's Covid-19 Task Force.

All undergraduate projects that require on-campus resources will have a contingency plan in case on-campus research operations must close.

Additionally, Georgia Tech has developed an Institute-wide contingency plan for transitioning operations to remote delivery in cases of illness or in the event pandemic conditions worsen. 
 Employee Accommodations 
Everyone should expect flexibility regarding their personal situation. Georgia Tech will continue to encourage teleworking, split shifts, staggered shifts, and other measures that promote physical distancing, and those who can work remotely should continue to do so to the extent that teleworking does not affect our ability to serve students. 
Individuals who fall into one of the GDPH and CDC categories for higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19 may request alternate work arrangements via Georgia Tech's Human Resources Office. Employees who care for or live with individuals at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19 should plan to return to campus as scheduled and work with their direct supervisor to ensure that their work environment allows for social distancing and the ability to practice the behaviors known to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Employees may utilize appropriate leave options as necessary, and they should contact the Human Resources Office to identify appropriate leave options.

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