UA unveils phased plan and other rules for returning to campus

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The University of Arkansas has released a 24-page plan for a phased-in approach to resuming on-campus operations as officials prepare for the return of students in August.

The university suspended in-person classes in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and switched to remote instruction and operations in a matter of days. Shortly after that, on-campus housing was closed on April 3.

Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said as difficult as that transition was, it may have been the easy part. The plan, he said, is to assume COVID-19 will be present into the foreseeable future.

“Restoring our on-campus academic and operational functions is proving in many ways to be more challenging given the nature of the virus and our desire to protect our community of students, faculty, and staff – while still lacking a vaccine and recognizing the ongoing need to adjust our physical proximity to one another,” Steinmetz said. “I believe the best way to look at this is to move forward as though COVID-19 is here to stay and plan accordingly.”

Aside from social distancing, face masks and frequent hand-washing requirements, students should expect changes to some classroom procedures, including the possibility of trading off in-person classes with other students.

For example, for classes with enrollment at the maximum fire code occupancy, instructors have been asked to allow some portion – such as one-third of students – to attend every third face-to-face lecture with the other two-thirds of the students attending the lecture remotely. Another option is to trade off on a weekly basis, the guide states.

Some classes may also be moved to the evenings or weekends to utilize larger classrooms where students can sit farther apart.

Another big change is the elimination of fall break to reduce the chance of the virus being spread by students who travel and return from other locations. For the same reason, it’s also possible the university will return to 100 percent remote instruction after the Thanksgiving break.

The university’s phased approach begins June 15 when a limited number of employees will return to campus to assist with preparations. Phase Two begins July 6 when more employees will return and University Libraries and the Arkansas Union will reopen on a limited basis. Phase Three is the first week of August when official visitors come to campus for academic or business purposes and the remainder of employees return.

The first day of classes for the fall semester is Monday, Aug. 24.

The university last week posted a move-in plan for students preparing to return to on-campus housing.

That plan includes additional move-in dates and a decreased volume of people allowed during arrival. Other measures, such as reduced occupancy limits on elevators and stairwells, as well as removing self-service stations from dining halls, were also announced.

“Our new normal is a University of Arkansas that is creative in its approach to discovery, learning and living, and willing to make adjustments to schedules, practices and protocols all in support of the greater good and what we do best: educate students, advance discovery, and provide outreach to the world around us,” Steinmetz said. “I am proud of our students, staff and faculty for their resilience, determination and innovation in continuing our mission in the most challenging of times.”

» Read the full Returning to Campus plan