Illinois State University will welcome students back to campus in August but could push many larger classes online and finish face-to-face instruction before fall break, according to a preliminary reopening plan released Wednesday.
The plan calls for a “blended” approach for fall instruction, with some classes on campus and others online, or a little of both. Residence halls and dining centers would be open, albeit with new precautions, like limited dorm guests and more spread out seating. Everyone on campus would be expected to wear face coverings.
“This plan was developed with the understanding that the University could need to pivot back to delivering courses strictly online if circumstances surrounding the pandemic change,” ISU leaders wrote in the Redbirds Return “interim” report.
The report answers some—but not all—questions about what life will look like at ISU when classes resume Aug. 17. Much of the plan is framed as “recommendations,” implying they may not happen as-is. ISU leaders plan to consider:
- Alternate academic calendars, such as concluding face-to-face instruction before fall break and conducting the remainder of the semester and finals remotely.
- Flexible scheduling options that allow for dedensification of classroom spaces, such as extending instruction later into the day, utilizing lesser scheduled days of the week, and utilizing nontraditional classroom spaces.
- Move as many classes as possible with 50-plus students to an online format.
- Provide a full schedule of online classes for first-time freshmen wishing to take their fall semester online.
ISU says it’s also considering “requiring student, faculty, and staff participation in antigen and/or antibody testing,” to determine who has already had COVID-19.
The Student Fitness Center would reopen, with capacity limits. Athletic contests would be allowed “in accordance with guidance published by governing bodies,” such as the NCAA. (ISU presumes Normal will be in Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan by Aug. 17, meaning gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.)
ISU also plans to “increase building fresh air minimums from 10% to 40%.”
In an email to campus Wednesday, ISU President Larry Dietz asked for feedback on the plan from students, faculty, and staff. The plan was developed through collaboration among 15 cross-campus teams, focused on topics such as Facilities, Cleaning, and Maintenance; Academic Continuity; and University-Sponsored Travel.
Other Illinois universities are releasing their own plans. The University of Illinois published its draft plan last week, including a similar blended-learning approach. Illinois Wesleyan says it’s considering an earlier start to the school year so students wouldn't have to come back after Thanksgiving to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection.
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