COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The University of South Carolina plans to resume in-person instruction on its Columbia campus for the Fall 2020 semester starting in mid-August.
“This decision has not been made lightly,” UofSC President Bob Caslen said in a letter to students. “It is informed by the science of our excellent epidemiologists and health care specialists in our planning group, as well as the CDC and the SC Department of Health and Environment Control. It is also made with the understanding of the cost of interrupting or postponing the education of tomorrow’s leaders for another semester or year.”
Caslon said preparing for August means “embarking on a new normal that will demand from each of us a commitment to public health and safety.”
He said the university will begin by “phasing in an increased presence on campus” over the summer of “selected populations of students and faculty,” even as online classes continue for summer instructions.
“This transitional, phased approach will allow us to test our mitigation measures, pilot our initiatives and further build our confidence and capacity to open our doors to the University community safely in August,” he said.
But he also said while they would like as many students, faculty and staff to return as possible, doing so would not be mandatory.
“We respect each person’s decision to either return or delay their return, and we will expand our online course offerings to accommodate those who choose to remain away,” he said.
Caslon also said for those returning to campus, plans for “academics, housing, dining and every aspect of student and campus life for the fall semester are being meticulously formed.”
He said those plans would include:
- Having the capacity to test every Student, Faculty and Staff member for COVID-19 upon return the campus
- Having the capacity to sustain a robust testing program throughout the entire semester
- Reviewing several comprehensive tracing and tracking apps for early and thorough identification of at-risk contacts
- Designating ample student housing for those who may require isolation and quarantine, and putting in place the support services to provide for their meals, education, and other needs
- Increasing on campus single-occupancy rooms in on-campus residence halls
- Modifying our dining practices in order to reduce close student contact in student dining facilities through “grab and go” meals
- Making accommodations for high-risk individuals and others who choose to continue online instruction with safeguards for protection against discrimination and stigma
- Following clear public health protocols, including social distancing within classrooms, lecture halls, meeting rooms and sports venues, with strong encouragement of proper social distancing off campus
- Ensuring that large class sections will either meet in smaller sections or in online formats and create alternative academic offerings to accommodate safe class gatherings
- Providing advising over the summer to help all students adjust their course schedules as needed
“The new normal on campus won’t be easy but judging by how well all of you have risen to the occasion during the challenges of the last many weeks, I have great confidence in you,” he said,