Florida colleges plan blend of reopenings

Students walk near the Marshall Student Center on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa. USF said everyone in classrooms will be required to wear a face covering and maintain distancing.

Florida’s colleges and universities are getting creative in their plans for fall semester. Many plan a return to remote instruction after Thanksgiving break, when many students will travel and possibly be exposed to the coronavirus. Florida’s universities plan for students to return to campus with increased cleaning of all common areas but some classes will be online and social distancing is being planned. Most will require or strongly encourage masks in classrooms and other shared spaces. Hybrid instruction will blend in-person classes with online learning to reduce the number of people in classrooms and other spaces. Some classes will be online only. Some smaller classes will continue face to face. Dormitories will be open, although some will reduce to capacity to double or single rooms. On-campus residents will be tested upon their return to campus. They also plan to train students, staff and faculty to avoid COVID-19. The Board of Governors for Florida’s State University System will meet at 11 a.m. today in Orlando and consider each of 12 universities’ detailed plan for reopening for fall semester.

However, college sports will be dependent on their governing bodies, such as the NCAA and American Athletics Conference.

Highlights of plans of colleges and public universities near The Villages are below.

LSSC

Lake-Sumter State College plans to announce its fall semester plans and class schedules today for the semester to begin Aug. 24, spokesman Kevin Yurasek said today.

All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to wear masks, and the college will try to maintain physical spacing of at least 6 feet, he said.

Most classes will be offered in one of two online formats: traditional, self-paced online college classes or real-time online classes with scheduled virtual meeting times and dates with students and instructors, he said.

“That real-time online has enabled us to move courses that normally would be offered online to online because the instructor can give feedback,” Yurasek said.

Some classes will be hybrids, with students receiving some instruction online and some in a classroom, such as classes requiring science labs or math emporiums, he said. A lot of LSSC’s math classes have classroom instruction and students also apply concepts learned in a computer-based lab structure.

“This is something we’ve developed as a college,” Yurasek said. Students traditionally attend class, or real-time online instruction one day and the math emporium on campus the next day.

“By having it on campus, we’re able to offer more support,” he said about math emporiums. Particularly for students in entry-level math classes, research shows they are more successful after participating in an emporium, he said.

A small number of workforce preparation classes will be face-to-face but in larger classrooms or lecture halls to allow space between students, Yurasek said. 

For example, classes to prepare students to become power utility line workers require them to practice climbing poles safely, which cannot be done online.

UCF

University of Central Florida in Orlando will require face coverings inside university buildings.

Faculty, staff and students will be required to complete a training session to ensure they understand university procedures and protocols before returning to campus.

It plans a phased approach.

Building capacity, excluding classrooms, laboratories and health care environments, will be limited to 30% in the initial phase of returning to campus and 50% in the second phase.

UF

The University of Florida anticipates a broad reopening of its campus in Gainesville for the fall semester, although it has a phased approach to bringing employees back.

It plans a comprehensive Screen, Test & Protect program for returning faculty, staff and students for no-charge, including a 10-station drive-thru testing site on campus.

It says it will follow guidance from UF Health and the Centers for Disease Control about face coverings and physical distancing. It will issue personal protective equipment to faculty and staff who will be in regular, extended contact with students indoors.

USF

The University of South Florida will reopen its residence halls on the main campus in Tampa and St. Petersburg campus at design capacity. Guests will not be permitted. The university has identified isolation spaces to accommodate students who have tested positive for the coronavirus and their suspected contacts.

Classes previously offered in large lecture rooms will be offered fully online, although some other classes will be delivered face-to-face. 

Everyone in classrooms will be required to wear face covering and maintain distancing.

FLORIDA POLYTECHNIC

Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland is putting 6-foot markers on the floors and direction markers in common areas. It’s changing its buildings’ airflow management and building air measurements in strategic locations.

It plans three instructional models: flex, with face-to-face classes with fully remote capacity for students; lab-based with on-site lab and online lectures, and online engaged classes held virtually with intentional opportunities for interaction.

 

Staff writer Dayna Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5408, or dayna.straehley@thevillagesmedia.com.