The University of Kansas announced its plan for the return of students in the fall semester in an email to students, faculty and staff Monday.
Classes for the fall semester will begin as planned on Aug. 24 but conclude before Thanksgiving, when students will leave campus for the semester, Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said in the email.
After Thanksgiving, there will be a study week, followed by a week of exams, conducted remotely.
“The academic calendar will change to minimize potential health hazards,” University leadership said.
There will be no Labor Day holiday or fall break.
The spring semester will start Feb. 1 instead of Jan. 19, as originally scheduled.
There will be no spring break. The week normally given off for spring break will be added to winter break, resulting in the delayed start in February.
Stop day and finals week remain unchanged for the spring 2021 semester.
In-person classes will be held on campus in the fall and spring, with a number of changes and safety precautions.
“KU is committed to ensuring the majority of students, if they choose, have the majority of their courses with in-person instruction in whole or in part,” KU leadership said.
KU will provide support this summer for faculty to design courses that can be offered in multiple or hybrid formats.
Classes will be scheduled from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to limit the density of students on campus and allow for frequent cleaning of classrooms. Additionally, there will be 15 minutes between classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to avoid congestion.
Most classes will be held between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, the announcement said.
Saturdays will be used as a last resort.
Students who have already enrolled will receive information in July about how their schedule may have changed.
“Our goal is to welcome back as many students as we can while continuing to prioritize the health of our community,” they said. “To do this, we must continue preparing a dynamic and flexible educational experience that accounts for the realities of life during and after a pandemic.”
Priority will be given to classes typically taken by freshmen, labs, KU Core classes, classes required to complete a degree and others that are most effective in-person, the announcement said.
Other universities across Kansas rolled out similar plans in recent weeks.
At Kansas State University, classes will begin a week earlier than anticipated and go online after Thanksgiving. K-State said they will need to reduce the number of students in classrooms, depending on the size of the room, according to The Collegian, K-State’s student newspaper.
Wichita State University will also switch to remote learning after Thanksgiving, and cancel fall break, according to The Sunflower, the institution’s student newspaper.
Similarly, Washburn University will begin the fall semester on time, but stop in-person classes by Nov. 20 to finish the semester remotely, according to a news release.
Student housing and dining facilities are expected to open in the fall, with changes to promote social distancing and other safety measures, the announcement said. Most facilities will operate near their normal capacity.
The move-in process at the beginning of the semester for housing will be spread over a longer period to avoid congestion. More detailed information on this process will be shared with students at a later time.
Watkins Health Services will partner with the University of Kansas Health System and LMH Health to coordinate testing and contacting tracing efforts.
This partnership will allow KU to access additional medical expertise, technology and resources, Girod and Bichelmeyer said in the announcement.
“Testing and contact tracing will be key to a thoughtful and science-based return to campus,” they said.
Details on testing practices for students, faculty and staff will be announced later during the summer, the announcement said.
KU will work with faculty who have underlying health issues that put them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, the announcement said. This process will be the same as the process for other ADA accommodation requests.
Students, staff and faculty will be expected to sign a “social responsibility pledge,” wear a mask in spaces where it is not possible to maintain a distance of six-feet and adhere to social distancing guidelines, according to the announcement.
Details on these guidelines will be released closer to the start of the fall semester. Theseguidelines are subject to change based on medical guidance and the changing nature of the virus, KU leadership said.
It's currently unclear what graduation ceremonies for fall graduates will look like, since those are typically organized by the individual schools on campus, University spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson told the Kansan.
“Undoubtedly, the fall semester will be unlike any in history. It will require flexibility, compassion and resilience,” University leadership said. “And it will require each of us to behave responsibly and in a way that benefits the entire community. If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we are all in this together.”