As the fall semester begins, local universities and colleges have outlined plans for the return of students during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Brenau University, the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College have each announced their intentions to begin classes in August with a combination of virtual and face-to-face instruction.
Each institution has also altered its academic calendar to allow for as many instructional days as possible. Brenau will begin classes on Monday, August 24 and the last day of classes will take place Wednesday, November 25. Final exams will be administered in a mixture of virtual and in-person formats. The university will also hold class on Labor Day and not take the usual fall break scheduled for October.
The University of North Georgia will begin fall classes on today and end the semester on Tuesday, November 24. All final exams will be administered online.
Lanier Technical College will also begin fall classes today and end on Tuesday, November 24. All final exams will be available online.
Some aspects of their plans are the same- each institution is requiring students and faculty to wear face coverings when inside on-campus buildings and in outdoor areas where social distancing is not possible.
A more in-depth analysis of each institution’s procedure is listed below and divided into categories of plans regarding students, academics, staff and athletics and extracurricular Activities.
- Brenau students planning to live on campus in the fall will move in on a staggered schedule between August 2 and August 23. Students are also required to answer a daily screening checklist online before going on campus each day. Any visitor that comes onto campus must also complete the checklist and wear a face covering
- According to David Barnett, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer with Brenau University, following a student’s completion of the checklist, they will receive a notification that tells them whether or not they are well enough to attend class. The student will be required to show the notification to their professor before they are cleared to enter the classroom
- “Each person receives an immediate response from that checklist in their email and they also receive those in a color-coded format, so you get a red response if you should not proceed and a green response if you can,” said Barnett
- A student who displays symptoms similar to COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus must immediately contact University Nurse Practitioner Sarah Davis and follow the process outlined on Brenau’s website
- Dining halls will be open to students for dine in seating, where they will be expected to social distance. Take out is also an option
- Barnett said the university is in the process of establishing an on-campus testing site
- “We’re working both with the health department and private providers to offer testing if we need it,” said Barnett
- Brenau University is offering a variety of resources to help students taking online classes for the first time. Some resources include online tutoring and accommodations. More information is on the Brenau website
- Students who are in programs requiring time in a clinical setting can expect to still do so in a face-to-face format, as well as some instruction in a virtual format
- “We’re working with our clinical providers to create environments that keep the students in lower-risk learning settings while giving them the opportunity to practice the skills that they need to learn in order to get their licensing,” said Barnett
- Employees will also be required to complete the daily screening checklist before coming onto campus
- The dining hall will be open to staff for take out only
- Brenau University is offering a variety of counseling and mental support services for employees
- Any Brenau employee who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of the virus must contact University Nurse Practitioner Sarah Davis
- Brenau University has pledged to be as accommodating as possible for employees that may need to work from home due to having children enrolled in virtual learning
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
- According to Barnett, all Brenau athletes will be required to test for COVID-19 prior to a competition, per conference rules. The university will provide these tests
- All sports are competing on a reduced schedule; championships have been postponed until the spring
- Barnett said Greek organizations will still hold their fall recruitment in the early part of the semester and will conduct most activities in a virtual format
Student Life activities will take place either outdoors where social distancing is possible or virtually
- Students are expected to complete an upcoming COVID-19 training outlining proper sanitation, hygiene and social distancing protocols
- Greg Williams, associate director of Public Safety for the university, said university officials are expecting to have the training soon ready for students
- “We are working to provide it to them through our various student platforms, orientation programs, residence life, our cadets [and] Greek life,” said Williams.
- Move-in day for residential students will take place over a five-day period beginning August 12
- Students are encouraged to screen daily for symptoms of COVID-19 before attending class in-person or visiting campus. The university has also developed a decision flow chart online
- Students who test positive for the virus or experience symptoms are asked to complete the UNG COVID-19 Self-reporting Form
- Student Health Services on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campus will offer testing to students who call ahead for an appointment and self-isolate until that appointment time as well as undergo an evaluation by a clinician
- According to Williams, the university is offering “rapid testing”
- “We’re committed to trying to provide those results to each person tested within the same day that they’re tested,” said Williams
- The university will provide reusable cloth masks as well as disposable masks to students
- The university’s website currently has a list of all cases on campus known to university officials. This list does not identify a person by name, but does list whether they are faculty, staff or student, as well as what campus they were on and their last time on that campus
- “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” said Williams. “We want to post any cases that we are made aware of and those are positive cases only.”
- University officials have developed several different models for class instruction. These include fully at a distance, partially at a distance, hybrid, H1 hybrid with 25-50% of face-to-face instruction, H2 hybrid with less than 25% face-to-face interaction, H3 variable face-to-face instruction, technology enhanced and no technology
- Williams said special plans are in place for students enrolled in the nursing program and other programs that require a clinical setting
- “The guidelines and protocols that we apply to that group are a little bit different than our general student population,” said Williams. “We’ve done things such as establishing seating charts in each classroom for those students to help us conduct contact investigations and support contact tracing if needed.”
- Employees and supervisors are also required to complete the COVID-19 training outlining proper sanitation, hygiene and social distancing protocols
- Faculty have been asked to be flexible with students who may not be able to participate in all class activities. Some adjustments include not using an attendance grade and allowing plenty of time for students to make up missed assignments
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
- Williams said the latest update from the Peach Belt Conference, the conference that UNG sports compete in, stated that all competitions would be delayed until October
- All Greek and student organizations are submitting plans for fall events and activities for approval to the Office of Student Affairs, according to Williams
Many events will take place outdoors, with masks required in many instances. Williams said that the university will also enforce the governor’s mandate of no gatherings above 50 people
- Campus will remain closed to the general public
- Plexiglas shields have been installed in frequent places such as the Cashier Station, reception counters and the bookstore counters. There are also floor markings to encourage social distancing, hand sanitizing stations and signage as reminders for safety practices
- Anyone who enters a building on campus is required to have their temperature checked. If their temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, then they will be asked to leave
- “We have made a very conscious effort to continually remind our employees and out students of the importance of not coming to campus or class if you’re sick, if anyone in your household is sick or if you have a reason to believe you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19,” said Lanier Tech President Ray Perren.
- The college will provide two masks for each student, although students can wear their own
- Students are also required to sign a waiver stating that they are not sick, no one in their household is sick, have not been exposed to someone with the virus, have not traveled outside the United States for the last 14 days and that they understand there is a risk of exposure by attending class on campus
- Classes will either be 100 percent online or a mixture of online and face-to-face instruction
- Perren said some classes are designed to allow on-campus instructions for students who learn better in that environment
- Many of the courses at Lanier Tech require hands-on training, for example welding or cosmetology. Perren said that special arrangements are being made for these classes
- “About 75 percent of the work that those students will do will be on site,” said Perren. “In those labs we’ve set up very specific health and safety protocol limiting the size of the labs to no more than 25 people, including instructors.”
- Cosmetology students will practice their skills on mannequins, college employees or each other, rather than members of the community as in past years
- “Traditionally, many of our labs including cosmetology, dental and so forth, we have what we call live work, where people from the community come in and our students perform these tasks on them as part of the learning process,” Perren explained. “But we will be limiting that significantly this fall.”
- Staff members are required to follow the same protocols as students, including wearing masks and having their temperature checked before entering a building on campus