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Board of Trustees affirms Ohio University's spring semester strategy

Published: October 29, 2020 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis shared the following message with the Ohio University community on Oct. 29, 2020.

Dear University Community:

As we enter week 11 of the fall semester, I am pleased to see the many ways our students, faculty, and staff have worked together to preserve the health of our community and support each other both inside and outside the classroom. We are currently in a period of declining daily active COVID cases across our campuses, and I credit you for taking the OHIO Pledge and consistently doing your part to help fight the spread of disease in our community.  

Because of your efforts, I write today with positive news about our upcoming spring semester. Based on what we have learned during our Phase 2 implementation, as well as newly developed strategies and partnerships to expand coronavirus testing on campus, we have developed plans that will accommodate all residential students who want to return to our Athens campus in January.

In addition to expanding face-to-face and hybrid course offerings on our Athens campus, our regional campuses will maintain a hybrid approach to learning. We will also be moving more of our undergraduate courses that remain online to synchronous delivery to meet the needs of our students. Any students who prefer to continue learning remotely will have the option to do so.

Our Board of Trustees met today to affirm this strategy, which was developed in consultation with public health experts and takes into account projections for COVID-19 cases and forecasts for flu in the coming months.

To minimize the public health risk to our University community as we continue to increase our campus density, we will continue to implement strategies that have helped to reduce the spread of disease and make new and necessary changes:

  • New spring calendar: The University will host its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on Monday, January 18, 2021. Spring semester classes will begin on Tuesday, January 19 instead of Monday, January 11. Spring Break will be eliminated to discourage travel to and from campus, but students will be provided with three “mini-breaks” Tuesday, Feb. 9, Wednesday, March 3, and Thursday, April 1 to allow for breaks. Classes will conclude by April 24, with most final exams held between Monday, April 26 and Friday, April 30.
  • Mandatory COVID-19 testing: All students living on campus will be tested for COVID-19 weekly, and any students who fail to present for testing will be in violation of their housing contract. Students living off campus will also be required to test bi-weekly. Additional information about the testing format, protocols, and frequency of required testing will be communicated once they are established for the coming semester.
  • Class formats: For most undergraduate students, courses will continue as a mixture of in-person and remote classes, and many students will still have a majority of their courses taught remotely. In response to student feedback, we will increase the number of undergraduate courses taught synchronously to encourage peer engagement. Students may choose to take a full course load remotely; however, they should consult with their advisor to understand implications of that choice. For most graduate and professional students, we anticipate course formats in the spring will be similar to or the same as course formats this fall. Course schedules and modalities for each course will be posted on Nov. 6.
  • Housing and Residence Life: All students with an active spring housing contract will be contacted by Housing and Residence Life no later than Friday, Oct. 30, with instructions on how to confirm whether they plan to return to campus or remain at the permanent residence of their parent or legal guardian. The majority of rooms this spring will be double occupancy with a select number of single rooms available upon request. Students previously assigned to triple or quad rooms will be reassigned. Triple rooms are currently assigned as double occupancy.   Students assigned in quads as groups of three will be reassigned. If an out-of-state student needs to arrive to campus early to complete a state-recommended 14-day quarantine, they will be contacted directly by Housing and Residence Life.
  • Continued COVID prevention efforts: This fall, the University implemented Presidential Health Directives and Policy 44.102 that established specific health requirements for University community members as necessary to mitigate current community health risks. Those policies will remain in place this spring, and it is essential for all University students, faculty and staff to follow protocols in order to maintain increased density on campus. We will continue our partnership with OhioHealth to provide expanded services for students and employees during the pandemic.
  • Spring Commencement: We know that our graduating students and families are very excited and want to plan ahead. We are still working though Spring 2021 Commencement planning at this time and will share additional information as soon as we are able.
  • Remote work for our employees: Reducing density on campus has been an important element in our return strategy. For the time being, those employees whose work can be effectively done remotely should continue to do so in the spring. Please check with your department head or supervisor if you have questions or concerns.

I appreciate the extraordinary work our University community has accomplished to meet the challenges of teaching, learning, and conducting research amid a pandemic.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear from students and families who are looking forward to a greater level of on-campus instruction and student activities in the spring semester. With the experience of the fall semester and the lessons we have learned to date, I am hopeful we can meet these goals.

Our decisions always will be focused on keeping our students, faculty, and staff safe while meeting our educational mission, and we will continue to keep you informed as we look ahead to the summer session and fall semester 2021. We will continue to provide updates and information online at www.ohio.edu/coronavirus