Emporia State University will adopt a modified fall semester as it welcomes back students, staff and faculty to campus in August.

The modified schedule will bring students back to campus for in-person classes from Aug. 17 - Nov. 20. Students will not return to campus following Thanksgiving break, and will instead complete the semester remotely.

ESU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Cordle said planning for the fall semester began as soon as the university down its campus for the spring semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We turned out attention full-time toward planning for fall and that planning, I think, has been going well,” Cordle said. “Our planning is focused on having students back on campus this fall and having face-to-face instruction on campus. That is really the focus of the decisions we are making, but it’s tentative to a certain extent.”

The goal, he said, is to prioritize the health and well-being of returning students and faculty while delivering the high quality education students expect.

“Safety is our first priority,” Cordle said, adding that the university is working hard to follow guidelines of health professionals as the pandemic continues to develop and evolve. “It seems like a good strategy when we consider that there is some reason to be concerned that there could be a surge, or an uptick, in infections as we get closer to the end of fall and the start of winter. Of course, that’s speculation — no one can say for sure that will happen.”

Still, Cordle said ending the face-to-face semester early was a good way to mitigate any potential community spread on campus.

In order to make that schedule adjustment more streamlined, ESU’s usual fall break has been moved from October to Thanksgiving week. So, students will get the entire week of Thanksgiving off, rather than just a few days.

Cordle said the enrollment in some classes has been lowered, depending on the max capacity of the classroom or teaching lab in which it is located. This will enable students to safely socially distance while taking in-person courses. Some classes have been moved to larger spaces or turned into a hybrid model — a mixture of both face-to-face and remote learning.

In rare instances, classes have been moved online entirely.

And adjustments to the schedule are not the only changes that have been made.

Facial coverings are required for all faculty, staff, students, visitors and vendors while in campus buildings. The masks must also be worn outdoors when safe social distancing is not possible. Cordle said the mask policy is for shared spaces; students in their residence hall rooms or employees working alone in their offices don’t have to wear them.

Exceptions are also made for those participating in activities in which a face mask cannot be worn or would prohibit respiratory function, and for individuals with a recognized disability and have an accommodation that prevents the wearing of a mask.

Residence halls capacities have been lowered, and many residential life services will be provided online.

Cordle said the university recognizes that some students — including international students — who may not be able to return to campus as planned.

“There are some elements that are out of our control and are out of their control,” he said. “They have to be able to come back into the country and that’s another topic with a lot of uncertainty right now. We are hoping for the best.”

Students who experience a delay in returning to campus will be met with understanding and flexibility, Cordle said. With so much up in the air, the university has to remain committed to its ability to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing landscape.

“We are committed to having students on campus this fall and having face-to-face instruction, but we’re even more committed to doing everything we can to make the experience this fall as safe as we possibly can,” Cordle said. “We are also committed to flexibility, to being ready for anything and being ready to adapt to whatever circumstances we end up with.”

For more information about ESU’s Fall 2020 return plan, visit www.emporia.edu/covid-19-information/esu-fall-2020-return-campus.

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