University Provides Updates for Plans to Return to Campus

University+Provides+Updates+for+Plans+to+Return+to+Campus

The first draft of plans to return to campus for the fall 2020 semester was announced via internal communication from St. John’s University President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw via the Office of Financial Services on Friday, May 22. These plans are “being drafted to prepare classroom and dormitory settings that follow social distancing guidelines” and their enactment is dependent upon New York state guidelines on campus reopening, according to the internal communication.

Key elements of the plan for the start of the fall 2020 semester include a possible combination of “on-campus face-to-face classes together with virtual classes,” livestreaming lectures, reducing class size and density as well as the development of a testing and contact tracing plan for the University. Contact tracing, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), involves warning contacts of potential exposure to COVID-19 in order to stop further transmission of the virus.

Under this preliminary plan, students can elect to pursue a combination of face-to-face classes in combination with virtual classes. Lecture capture and livestreaming technologies are also being expanded to provide the option for students to either attend face-to-face classes or view them remotely, according to the internal communication.

Another proposed element that the University is considering is the allocation of classes across certain days and times “to reduce class sizes.” To further this effort, the University is looking at converting “open facilities to temporary lecture classrooms to reduce density.” The internal communication also states that the University will designate an on-campus facility “for quarantine purposes.”

The internal communication also states that the University is proactively planning for a possible return to virtual learning, should another major COVID-19 outbreak occur. Last month, the BBC reported that Director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, expects a second wave of the novel coronavirus to coincide with the flu season, which typically begins as early as October.

This update from president Gempesaw comes just three weeks after the May 1 announcement of the creation of the Return to Campus Task Force (RCTF). The RCTF is responsible for the University transition from remote learning and workforce to the resumption of on-campus operations, dependent upon state and local guidelines for reopening. According to the internal communication, the RCTF is responsible for key areas in the transition, including “health and safety measures, social distancing strategies, outbreak response, communication planning and mental health counseling.”

It has now been 10 weeks since the University made the decision to suspend in-person classes and send resident students home. The Torch conducted a virtual interview with President Gempesaw earlier this month, where he outlined more of what students can expect from the University in the upcoming months in regard to a return to campus and campus life.

Visit our coronavirus landing page for all University-related coronavirus updates and for more information on the University’s response.