College students all over the world move to South Florida not only for the beaches but for diverse schools like Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University. But when COVID-19 arrived in the Sunshine State, schools were forced to close their doors, sending thousands of students back home to complete the remaining months of their spring semester remotely.
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As students sit in limbo this summer, wondering if they’ll return to campus in the fall, school presidents and administrators are developing plans to reopen. Each state university presented its plans to the Florida Board of Governors on Tuesday. Board members unanimously approved both FIU and FAU’s plans.
Florida International University (FIU) Reopening Plan Overview
FIU Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth Furton proposed a school-wide communication campaign, Panthers Protecting Panthers, to provide information on the new changes. The university developed an app with the same name which includes a questionnaire for students and faculty regarding their daily health status.
“Every single day, including right now when people come on campus, they must download the app, I have to do the app just like everyone else, and if for some reason it tells me I need to work remotely, or learn remotely, or teach remotely, then we have remote options available for those students, or those faculty, or those staff,” Furton said.
Anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms will be advised to get tested next door at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds or at a private physician’s office.
Students and faculty must wear face masks, maintain social distancing, and wash their hands frequently. Every classroom is equipped with sanitizing wipes so students and professors can clean their area before and after the class.
FIU has 132 beds for people who test positive, according to Furton. The school’s COVID-19 Prevention and Response Team will interview these individuals regarding there recent whereabouts for sanitation purposes. Anyone in proximity to someone who tests positive will be instructed to self-quarantine and get tested.
Furton says they’ve installed Zoom in 204 classrooms in case students or professors contract the virus during the semester. Professors can broadcast directly into the classroom while they’re at home, and students can virtually attend the class or watch the Zoom recordings.
All classrooms are configured to meet the six-feet social distancing guidelines. Students have the option to take either a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, fully asynchronous online courses, or “approved synchronous remote” courses for larger lecture halls.
However, FIU will only conduct about one-third of its courses in person, and courses like clinicals and labs do not have a reasonable way to conduct online instruction.
“We know that at any time we may need to decrease the number of students on campus or possibly go remote, so we have remote options for every single one of our courses,” Furton said.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Reopening Plan Overview
Like other universities around the state, FAU Vice President Stacy Volnick emphasized wearing face masks anywhere on campus including classrooms, restrooms, and university vehicles. FAU purchased “large quantities” of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to Volnick.
FAU’s vice president explained that when students return to campus each fall, they usually receive a “swag bag” filled with FAU merchandise.
“This year’s swag bag will be a branded face covering, hand sanitizer, messaging on what the requirements will be, and recommendations for them to maintain a safe environment,” Volnick said.
All international students and students traveling from domestic COVID-19 hot spots will quarantine on campus for 14 days.
“We are reaching out to those students and giving them an opportunity to arrive to campus early so that they can do that and not have the start of their semester impacted,” Volnick said.
Students and faculty members will receive a screening before returning to campus. FAU’s Student Health Services (SHS) will provide testing to all students who experience symptoms. Human Resources and SHS are developing a testing program for employees, which would look similar to the student testing process.
FAU set aside more than 100 beds at the Boca Raton campus and 12 beds at the Jupiter campus to accommodate any sick students. Volnick explained a local hotel can hold 80 students in Boca Raton, if need be, but FAU is prepared to add more on-campus sick beds.
“We have made the commitment to keep our sick students on campus where we can meet the needs of them,” Volnick said.
The university also has a detailed sanitization plan, and Volnick says FAU will use additional outside businesses to help disinfect high-volume areas like the library, student center, and residence halls. All outside partners will have to comply with the school’s COVID-19 protocols.
As for classes, the university will only conduct in-person courses that must have on-campus instruction. Classrooms with moveable chairs will hold about 25 percent of normal capacity, and classrooms with fixed seating will hold about 20 percent.
Courses with more than 50 enrolled students will be fully remote. Classrooms are equipped with streaming services for students who must learn remotely. Professors will receive additional training as they convert their in-person classes to an online format. FAU plans to have all graduate courses entirely online unless they are cleared for in-person instruction.