[caption id="attachment_195379" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] The University of Delaware's South Green | Photo c/o University of Delaware[/caption]
NEWARK — The University of Delaware, the largest higher education institution in the state, is planning to resume classes and reopen the dorms on Sept. 1 as scheduled through a blend of in-person and online courses.
UD President Dennis Assanis announced that students would see tenets of the “new normal” upon their return, like classrooms and laboratories reconfigured for social distancing requirements, required wearing of face masks while indoors and thousands of new hand sanitizer stations installed throughout campus.
“This goal [of Sept. 1 classes] does not come lightly, as UD leadership continues to work through multiple measures and initiatives in order to enable successful resumption of our campus experience at all locations in Delaware,” Assanis wrote in a letter to the community. “In all cases, we will continue to adapt the UD campus, operations and curriculum to safeguard the health and well-being of our community.”
If the plan is successful, it will be the first time since March 17 that the university will open its residence halls and classrooms to students. The first known COVID-19 case in Delaware was a UD professor who was confirmed March 12, which then spread to two graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher days later.
[caption id="attachment_199955" align="alignright" width="359"] Dennis Assanis | Photo c/o University of Delaware[/caption]
Right now, UD has no changes in its academic calendar for fall 2020, but Assanis said the university is ready to convert to online learning at any moment, much like how the spring semester played out.
In most cases, in-person courses are limited to fewer than 50 students. Those with more students will be in an online format with face-to-face recitation and small-scale interaction opportunities be made available. Students with health conditions will be provided access to “high-quality online course delivery.”
The last day for in-person classes will be Nov. 20, ending the semester on an online-only format. UD may schedule in-person exam days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
UD is assigning students residence halls based on reduced density and move-in will be staggered over days in mid to late August. Dorm life will also be different, with markings and signage to show traffic flow patterns, guidelines for bathrooms, common rooms and the dining hall. In addition, more custodial staff has been hired for multiple cleanings per day.
The university is also identifying residential housing, medical and food services for students who need to be isolated or quarantined when COVID-positive cases occur, Assanis wrote. Students who show symptoms will be tested, and the college will work with the Delaware Division of Public Health on contact tracing.
Assanis announced that UD will be freezing tuition rates. But the student well-being fee, the comprehensive fee and the housing and dining fees will increase to offset expenses.
In particular, the student well-being fee will be raised by $120 to meet the demand for health services, counseling, and expansion of telehealth services. The housing and dining fees will increase by $264 to partially offset increased operating and custodial costs, as well as dining hall renovations.
In his message to the UD community, Assanis stressed that he and the Campus Reopening and Fall Planning Task Force were working in an ever-evolving situation as it plans not only for the weeks, but the months ahead.
“As we further define details around creating a safe, healthy and thriving campus environment, we have multiple factors to take into account – those that are known and planned, and many that may be unknown and unforeseen,” he wrote. “This will impact decisions for academic planning beyond Thanksgiving, and the path we pursue will likely be the one that affords the greatest amount of flexibility possible to yield an enriching educational experience.”
By Katie Tabelingktabeling@delawarebusinesstimes.com