KENT, Ohio — We're still not sure what things will look like months from now during this coronavirus pandemic, but for the time being, two of Northeast Ohio's top learning institutions are planning to get back to at least some semblance of normal.
Kent State University and the University of Akron both announced Friday they plan to welcome students back on campus during their respective fall semesters, with dorms also set to be open and operational. Although strict health and safety guidelines will be in place, it will mark the first time the schools will have hosted in-person classes since COVID-19 first became visible in Ohio in mid-March.
KSU specifically plans a "phased approach" to its restart, and will share more details on those plans on June 1. However, they did reveal several guidelines that will be in place, including:
- A requirement for wearing face masks
- Enhanced cleaning of classrooms and work spaces
- Strict 6-foot social distancing among students and faculty
- Replacement of in-person meeting with video conference calls, when possible
- Daily self-monitoring for possible COVID-19 symptoms
Changes may also be made to Kent State's academic calendar, including a possible move to remote-only learning after Thanksgiving. Should the health crisis worsen, the school says it would not hesitate to shut down again.
Said Interim Associate Provost Manfred van Dulmen:
"The goal of this effort is to develop a plan that reflects the values and mission of Kent State and allows our students to be successful, our employees to thrive and our scholars to be innovative and creative, while at the same time protecting health and maintaining safety for everyone in our university community."
Besides social distancing, Akron says it plans to offer some classes via a "hybrid" style of remote and in-person and will keep staffing at "minimum" levels where possible. But despite the optimism, the institution warns these plans could change if "circumstances change significantly."
"I want to thank everyone for their dedication and efforts as we seek to establish the best ways we can operate in our changed world," UA President Dr. Gary L. Miller wrote. "We encourage students to make plans to join us this fall and be part of the great adventure we have before us."
Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all K-12 schools to close back in March in order to stop the spread of the virus, but only recommended that colleges and universities shift to all-remote learning (most followed suit). He and others have expressed hope that classes will be able to resume at least on some level starting in August, but so far, nothing definitive has been given.