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Friday July 10th, 2020 5:22PM

University of North Georgia announces plan to welcome students back in fall

By Lauren Hunter Multimedia Journalist

University of North Georgia leadership have announced their plan to resume face-to-face instruction in the fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A press release sent out Wednesday from the university states that staff plan on welcoming students back on campus in August for the fall semester. Social distancing guidelines and other measures will be put in place to ensure students and staff stay healthy despite the pandemic.

"It is important to bring our students back to our campuses to engage in the full higher education experience," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said. "The goal is to restore as much of the face-to-face experience as possible while taking measures to prioritize the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff."

The plan begins with a phased return of staff to campus beginning June 15th. Facilities teams have undergone extensive training and been provided with equipment to safely clean and prepare campus for the return of students in the fall. The release said that staff will continue to clean classrooms, bathrooms and other common areas in compliance with CDC guidelines throughout the fall semester.

In addition, students, staff and faculty will be expected to follow practices to prevent the spread of the virus, which include practicing social distancing, using a face cloth when social distancing is not possible and using best practices in hygiene and cleaning.

The new plan will impact nearly every area of campus life, including instruction, where staff are already planning ways to utilize social distancing.

"We will arrange classrooms to allow students to sit 6 feet away from each other or provide flexible schedules for students, including hybrid courses," said Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs. "Though the look of our classrooms may change, our faculty members' commitment to student success remains steadfast."

Some courses that require a lab, clinical or practicum will feature customized plans with instruction in face-to-face and virtual formats. 

Other student services that will be adjusted to follow the plan include dining hall and food courts, Student Counseling, Student Health Services, and Campus Recreation and Wellness. The permitted size of group gatherings will be adjusted to comply with most recent guidelines.

Staff encourage students to assume personal responsibility and follow guidelines while living on campus, as well.

"Students living in the same room or suite will be considered as individuals living in the same household; however, they will be encouraged to practice social distancing while in other areas of campus," Treva Smith, director of residence life, said. "It is the responsibility of residential students to adhere to appropriate behaviors related to the prevention of COVID-19, including the cleaning of their room or suite."

The release said that staff have been following guidance from the Governor Kemp's COVID-19 Task Force, the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Prevention to create the plan. Staff have also developed contigency plans in case the pandemic worsens and remote instruction is necessary.

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