MU's fall plans outlined: Isolation housing, face masks and hybrid classes
COLUMBIA —Fall at MU will include isolation facilities, hybrid classes and a recommended pre-semester quarantine for students as in-person classes return in August amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter shared with the campus community Monday, UM System President and Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi addressed frequent questions and major public health guidelines being instituted for students' return in August.
"Our plans are focused on an in-person fall return, with creative use of technology and some online strategies to achieve social distancing," Choi said. "If we must later shift to remote instruction due public health conditions, faculty are preparing all courses with sufficient flexibility to make that transition."
Choi emphasized maintaining six feet of social distance and consistent monitoring of symptoms and temperatures as the "strongest defense to slow the spread of the virus," and shared a number of other measures being instituted for the coming semester.
MU's plans for the semester are "living documents," Choi said in the letter, and may change according to the public health situation and guidance on local, state and federal levels. The guidelines established in the current plan were done so in consultation with over 135 "specialists," Choi said, as well as advice from public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Detailed reports on how academics, research and other areas will be impacted by new guidelines can be found on MU's Show Me Renewal website.
Isolation and testing
MU has set aside lodging for students living in housing on campus "to isolate positive cases and quarantine their close contacts," according to the letter. Students living off campus will work with university staff to coordinate plans such as food delivery and "direction from public health officials."
Students are also recommended to "limit contact" with others starting two weeks before Aug. 24, the first day of classes.
MU will work with public health officials "to provide robust contact tracing teams" to isolate those who were potentially exposed if a student or employee tests positive, according to the letter.
Testing for "any student showing symptoms" for COVID-19 will be available through the MU Student Health Center or students' health care providers, according to the letter. University employees should consult their health providers for testing information and guidance.
All those on campus should consistently monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, the letter requests. A list of coronavirus symptoms can be found on the CDC's website.
Students, staff and faculty are expected to supply their own face coverings when returning to MU, but the university will store a limited supply of backup coverings for students who forget to bring theirs to class, according to the letter.
Supply bags containing face coverings, hand sanitizer and wipes will be distributed to students and employees at the beginning of the semester. Choi said earlier this month that MU is working to secure face shields for instructors, which would allow deaf or hard of hearing students to read their lips.
Face coverings will only be required in classroom settings, and recommended in open areas within campus buildings. They will not be required for those working or learning in spaces were six feet of distance between individuals is possible, according to the letter.
However, face coverings "should be worn any time contact within six feet for 15 minutes or more cannot be avoided," according to the letter, and "should not be seen as a replacement for social distancing."
MU's face covering policies will adjust according to local health guidelines and requirements, according to the letter. Columbia Mayor Brian Treece tweeted Friday evening that he had requested City Manager John Glascock to draft an ordinance requiring face masks in "all public settings."
Fall coursework will be conducted in several formats, including a "blended" hybrid, face to face and fully online, according to the letter.
Blended classes include both face to face and online learning. Some will feature "class splits," in which different sections of the class rotate attending in person, according to the letter. Courses with larger lectures and smaller discussion groups will hold the lecture online and discussion sections in person.
Face-to-face classes will be either be moved to larger rooms to accommodate for social distancing or cap smaller rooms at lower numbers of students, according to the letter.
Some classes will be taught entirely online. Instructors will determine whether those classes are taught synchronously, in which all students attend virtually at a specified time, or asynchronously, self-paced on each student's schedule.
Additional options for remote learning will be offered to high-risk instructors or students, and students who miss class while out sick will be given online access to all course materials, according to the letter.
August move-in for students living in university housing has been spread out across Aug. 12-23.
Students must sign up for a 90-minute time slot prior to arrival using a form that will be sent out Wednesday. Those slots will run from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Students must have face covering, a thermometer, hand sanitizer and other cleaning products to move into their housing, according to the letter. Up to two individuals can accompany a student during move-in, which must be completed within the 90-minute window.
Training and precautions
All students will be required to complete online training on "fall semester practices and expectations" prior to arriving on campus, according to the letter. The training is in development.
MU will remind the campus community of the instituted guidelines and expectations through a "coordinated communications campaign" and will provide updates with new information or changes as they occur.