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Emergency Preparedness

U West Georgia Announces 'Full Return' to Campus for Fall

The University of West Georgia has announced plans for a "full return" to campus on Aug. 12, for in-person instruction. The school has also developed contingency plans, one for fully online classes and one that shifts from on-site to online at some point during the fall term.

"While online instruction is effective and important to maintain as an option for our students, we know the value of an in-person higher education experience, and it is important to see our students continue to grow in that environment beginning in August," said Brendan Kelly, president of UWG, in a video address to the campus community. "This fall our campus will open to students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve as the vibrant, welcoming place that invites everyone to learn, grow and become."

Kelly added that the campus would "implement several practices to ensure everyone has a safe, productive semester back on campus." The specific practices mentioned were:

  • For students, faculty and staff to "monitor their health daily" and report "relevant information about whether they were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19";
  • For everybody to follow physical distancing guidelines; and
  • For staff to clean and disinfect shared and personal spaces.

Face coverings won't be mandatory on campus; their use will be "strongly encouraged."

However, as some observers commented, the video offered "few details."

A parent asked how social distancing would take place in dorm rooms or how students would monitor their health. As she noted, "COVID-19 infections have INCREASED and a video without a detailed plan of action is simply fluff. My husband and I were hopeful the school would have made every effort to put the students' health first, and opening campuses during a pandemic is irresponsible."

One student, a senior, wondered how common spaces could be disinfected "class after class with 10-plus buildings on campus." For example, in the library, "will there be people to clean every computer after someone gets up?" he asked. Also, as he noted, "Recommending a cloth mask doesn't mean everyone will wear one. And having to report symptoms is not going to work because some people show zero symptoms of having COVID. Overall, I'm very disappointed. I truly hope either new protocols will be put in place for the semester or they give people the option to still choose online fully because I am not comfortable going back after this video."

Seven different working groups have developed portions of the campus reopening plan, covering academics and research; student life; enrollment management; athletics; and public services, outreach, and continuing education. Also feeding into the planning was information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health and the University System of Georgia, each of which provided directives and guidelines to safeguard students, faculty, staff and visitors and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on campus.

The current plan is openly available on the university website. And the university promised to publish more details soon on its website.

"Our goal with all of the protocols we're implementing is to build a culture of mutual respect for each other as we return to campus," Kelly said, in a statement "We are so excited to be able to offer a full, dynamic experience to our students this fall in the safest, most considerate ways possible."

Currently, the Georgia Department of Public Health has reported 81,291 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 2,805 deaths and 11,051 hospitalizations. Carroll County, where the university is located, has reported 704 confirmed cases, with 39 deaths and 115 hospitalizations, ranking it 24th for cases among 159 counties in the state. Recently, Georgia announced a "record high" spike in cases.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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