State of Ohio's Responsible Restart Ohio plans announced
Yesterday, July 9, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the release of minimum operating standards and recommended best practices for higher education as part of the state’s Responsible RestartOhio plan. In addition, he announced his commitment to assisting Ohio’s public universities with the implementation of necessary health and safety measures and his support for an allocation of Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars.
The newly released standards and statewide recommended best practices align closely with the Inter-University Council’s Ohio Reopening Matrix as well as with Ohio University’s Fall Planning Report and Recommendations. These standards and practices reflect several weeks of dialogue between Gov. DeWine, Chancellor Randy Gardner, and public university presidents across the state. Through this dialogue and partnership, Gov. DeWine has demonstrated his commitment to collaborative leadership and data-informed decision making during a time of uncertainty across our state and our nation.
As you know, our Ohio University Fall Planning recommendations were developed with input from more than 100 students, faculty, and staff representatives serving on eight work groups, and Gov. DeWine applauded the difficult work being accomplished by our state’s universities to best serve our students while also minimizing risk. I too thank members of our community for the immense work to plan for fall.
Gov. DeWine also recognized the tremendous financial need that will result from implementing health and safety measures this fall – from addressing classroom technology needs and introducing additional virtual student services, to implementing new ordering systems for campus dining, supplying PPE, installing plexiglass and producing appropriate signage. He announced yesterday a funding proposal the Ohio Controlling Board will consider next week to offset costs “to serve students and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
While we do not yet know what level of funding Ohio University may receive, we understand any funding received will be restricted to use for incremental direct costs within federal guidelines for Coronavirus Relief Fund spending.
As we look toward reopening for the Fall semester, with classes scheduled to begin in just six weeks, we have begun to resume limited face-to-face activities on our campuses using a phase-in approach that aligns with the state’s recommended best practices as well as with our own Fall Planning Report and Recommendations. This includes activities such as the phased reopening of our campus library facilities, resuming limited face-to-face services on some regional campuses, and more. All face-to-face activities will follow established safety protocols, and we will make adjustments as we learn from this phase-in plan. We will also continue to respond to the ever-changing dynamic of the pandemic, including being ready to implement changes mandated by the newly announced Ohio Public Health Advisory System.
This is a challenging time for us as educators and for our students and our mission. As Gov. DeWine said during his press conference yesterday, “this is not going to be easy.” But, it is important work at the very core of our commitment to our students and our mission. We have more work to do, and our Fall Planning Work Groups remain active as they refine the implementation of our plans. As more details are announced, we are continuing to add information and resources to our Fall Planning website.
I encourage you to continue to reach out to leadership within your colleges and divisions or through our five senates to offer constructive feedback or to bring forward solutions and ideas. It will take all of us working together to effectively navigate this unprecedented fall semester.
M. Duane Nellis