The University of Maryland has released its fall semester reopening plan following an abrupt shift to online classes in March during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an email to the campus community, university President Wallace Loh said the goal is to kick off the new semester on Aug. 31 as planned, while prioritizing the health and safety of the community with the coronavirus expected to remain a threat.
“Risk management of COVID-19 is an evolving process,” Loh said in the email, sent Monday night. “The risks cannot be eliminated, but they can be reduced. The university’s response will evolve until a vaccine or treatment is available.”
Students, faculty members and everyone else on campus will be asked to wear face coverings, stay 6 feet apart from each other and check their temperature every day.
Those who report having a fever or any other symptoms will be tested for COVID-19 and will be isolated if they test positive.
“At this time, our goal is to make this testing available to all faculty and staff who wish to be tested, and to consider requiring it of all students on campus,” Loh said.
“The CDC guidance is to test only when there are symptoms. However, as some public health experts have pointed out, this guidance does not take into account the fact that a large percentage of infected persons are asymptomatic.”
Dining halls will open with reduced seating capacity and physical distancing.
In order to make student housing less dense and spread people out, dorm rooms that typically would house three or four students will be converted into double rooms, and floor lounges will be turned into single or double rooms.
“The approved plan is to offer university housing to more than 75% of all the students who applied for housing, including all first year students. This plan also sets aside residential spaces for isolation and quarantining, if needed.”
Classes, initially, will not shift entirely back to in-person learning.
According to Loh, it is likely that most courses with at least 50 students will be carried out at least partially online.
“Work continues to determine exactly which courses will be offered in-person, online or in a blended format and what the room assignments and daily schedule will be,” Loh said.
“Faculty are also preparing contingency plans to move entirely to online instruction after Thanksgiving break, should there be a resurgence of the pandemic in late fall.”
More information on how classes are to be carried out are expected to be released in July.
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