reopening schools

State Colleges Discuss Reopening Plans During Virtual Forum

Schools outlined their plans as they are still addressing lingering questions. Final plans are expected in early August.

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Addressing fall protocols, several Connecticut schools including UConn, Quinnipiac, and the state university system participated in a virtual forum Tuesday. With classes set to begin next month, state colleges and universities officials said they’ll be ready.

“We are confident that we will be able to open safely given where we are currently with the pandemic,” said Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State College and Universities.

Guidelines have been put in place by the state but those managing schools of higher education said one size does not fit all.

“There’s a template to help institutions develop their plans but understanding that individual institutions are different and their plans will reflect those differences,” said Ojakian.

During the forum, which lasted several hours, schools laid out preliminary plans for the fall. They also answered questions posed by several state representatives.  Topics of discussion included academic plans, budgetary needs, safety protocols and academic approach.

Schools are planning several different modalities including some in-person classes, online classes and a hybrid of both. Heading into the fall, school officials said they are addressing the academic void created by online learning and vow to maintain academic standards.

“Every modality has high rigor and is aligned with the goals of that course as much as possible,” said Carl Lejuez, provost at UConn.

There’s was also the discussion of mandatory masks.

“Facemasks must be worn by students and employees,” said Hans Rhynhartof UConn Public Safety. “UConn has taken delivery of approximately 70,000 cloth facemasks, which will be given to students and employees.”

UConn officials said in-person class sizes will be reduced to 30% and the on-campus population reduced to 70%. Traditional dorm capacity will be cut in half with alternative housing unaffected.

Housing plans from school to school could vary, however, UConn said it will prioritize first year students and those who live the furthest away when deciding who gets housing and who doesn’t.  

“We want to accommodate those with the greatest need. Where they are dependent upon us,” said Elly Daugherty, associate vice president for student affairs and the dean of students at UConn.

There’s also the possibility of a student becoming infected. Schools say they’re preparing for that scenario by setting aside 10% of residential housing for isolation use. Schools prefer an infected student return home but if not possible plans are in place.

“If they cannot they will be removed from the residential community and placed in a specific unit of the campus that we’re holding for medical isolation,” said Daugherty.

Schools said they are still defining guidelines for testing and contact tracing. Both of which are to be part of the reopening strategy. Schools are expected to file their complete plans for reopening by early August.

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