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Georgia University System schools work on fall reopening plan

Georgia Tech students load a truck on campus on Saturday, March 14, 2020. Students had to leave the campus for the remainder of the semester.
Georgia Tech students load a truck on campus on Saturday, March 14, 2020. Students had to leave the campus for the remainder of the semester.

University System of Georgia officials are working with its schools on plans the system hopes to review next week to determine how they could reopen campuses for in-person instruction this fall and contingency options if they must continue virtual learning.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week obtained a copy of a 31-page memo outlining the options, with many involving social distancing in classrooms, dorms and dining halls. A USG official confirmed the memo’s authenticity, but declined to comment about it and stressed the plans are subject to change.

Colleges and universities in Georgia and across the nation are exploring options about the best ways to reopen campuses after closing them in mid-March to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Georgia Tech students were on the move in between classes on campus on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Georgia Tech, like other state colleges and universities, has closed campuses due to the coronavirus outbreak and is offering online counseling services for students needing assistance. 
Georgia Tech students were on the move in between classes on campus on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Georgia Tech, like other state colleges and universities, has closed campuses due to the coronavirus outbreak and is offering online counseling services for students needing assistance. 

The nation’s largest system, 500,000-student California State University system, has said it is planning to have most classes online this fall. The University of South Carolina announced plans Sunday for an “accelerated” schedule with in-person instruction concluding at Thanksgiving break. New York University said Tuesday it will resume on-campus classes in the fall.

Officials in the 330,000-student Georgia system have said they hope to have in-person instruction this fall, pending approval from state health officials and the governor’s office. The memo outlines those requirements.

AJC GET SCHOOLED BLOG | As Georgia colleges plan for in-person classes, Cal State System stays online for fall 

The document includes general recommendations for four options: in-person instruction with limited social distancing expectations, in-person instruction with social distancing expectations, online learning and online learning during a portion of the semester. A group of university system presidents have been involved in the discussions.

Here are some potential recommendations included in the plan:

  • Testing for COVID-19: The schools should have policies regarding screening, including temperature checks and/or symptom monitoring for employees and students.
  • Classroom instruction: The discussions include moving to larger classrooms and providing alternate schedules for students within the class. Faculty should have flexible office hour schedules to allow more one-on-one interactions.
  • On-campus housing: Students should consider wearing cloth face coverings in any shared spaces, not including the student's room. Visitors should be limited or avoided. Students should practice social distancing from classmates who are not roommates.
  • Dining: Social distancing would be recommended. The schools should discourage large gatherings.
  • Athletics: Guidance would come from state health officials and the NCAA.

The memo says a student diagnosed with COVID-19 should leave campus immediately and return to their home whenever possible. Employees who test positive or who receive a clinical diagnosis should report the positive test to their immediate supervisor as soon as possible.