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President and Provost share details for Fall 2020 return to campus during virtual town hall

Published: July 5, 2020 Author: From Staff Reports

President M. Duane Nellis and Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs were joined by Dr. James Gaskell, health commissioner for the Athens City-County Health Department, Nicole Pennington, executive dean for regional higher education, and Chief Facilities Officer Steve Wood for a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday to answer questions submitted by faculty and staff about plans for bringing students back to campuses and resuming some face-to-face instruction this fall.

During the event, leaders shared details on plans for course delivery to ensure safe physical distancing, ensuring the safety of faculty and staff who are in a high-risk category or have family members who are, campus cleaning and ventilation, and more.

Important information shared during the town hall included:

Establishment of Ohio University Social Compact and the Athens Business Community Compact

Senate leaders are working together to develop a social compact to strengthen and clarify how to support one another’s health, teaching, learning, and creative activity. Once finalized, all students will be required to agree to the compact when they return to one of OHIO’s campuses. In addition, the University is working with local officials and business leaders to craft an Athens Business Community Compact to help define mutual responsibility to keep the community safe. The University will also engage in similar conversations with local governing bodies for regional campuses towards development of local agreements. 

Classroom Space and Course Delivery

The University is actively adjusting classroom and lecture hall spaces to hold small, in-person classes in which individuals will remain spaced at least six feet apart and will not share tools. Many courses will be delivered with a hybrid model than includes both virtual and in-person class structures and/or staggered/rotated scheduling to achieve smaller class sizes. Most courses larger than 30 students will be delivered in online or hybrid modalities; however, schools and departments may request exemptions if course learning outcomes may not be met without face-to-face instruction. Department chairs and school directors are working with faculty members to determine the most effective modality for courses.

Accommodations for High Risk Employees

University plans for fall semester provide for work duties that can be effectively completed or provided in a remote environment to continue in this modality in order to reduce overall density of people on all campuses. Accommodations will be made for faculty and staff who are high risk for complications from COVID-19 or who are caring for family members who are high risk.

NOTE: Faculty who wish to request alternative teaching arrangements should complete the request form linked here by end of day today, Monday, July 6. Staff who would like to request remote work arrangements should talk with their supervisor or their HR liaison.

Cleaning and Ventilation on Campuses

In accordance with CDC and ODH guidance, Facilities Management and Safety will clean and disinfect all classrooms and restrooms daily. Additionally, custodial staff will provide routine disinfection of high-contact surfaces within University facilities, especially entrances and lobbies. The University also will make cleaning products (disinfecting wipes or spray bottles and paper towels) available to students and employees to disinfect the spaces and equipment they’ve used. Use of shared objects (e.g., lab equipment, computer equipment, desks) should be limited when possible, or disinfected between use.

Facilities Management and Safety is also actively engaged in adjusting University systems at both the main and regional campuses in accordance with American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommendations to maximize intake. HVAC filters have been upgraded to MERV 13.

Employees can view a recording of the meeting and find the full Fall Planning Report and Recommendations at www.ohio.edu/coronavirus.

In the coming weeks, the University will continue ongoing dialogue with faculty, staff, and students to keep our University community informed of plans as they evolve. In addition, the University will continue to update the Fall 2020 Planning website.

Faculty and staff can submit questions to be addressed in upcoming communications about Fall 2020 through this form.

University Communications and Marketing apologizes for the delayed start of the Town Hall and the technical errors experience by faculty and staff members attempting to access the Town Hall this morning. UCM was using a process for streaming internal content that we have deployed regularly to support open forums for candidate searches. However, due to the high level of interest in this content, the volume of traffic caused an unexpected server overload on the web page where the content was being hosted. We appreciate the interest in details around Fall Planning and will continue to provide updates as new information is available.