As Missouri S&T moves forward with its plan to hold classes on campus in the fall, many of the staff and faculty who have been working remotely will begin returning to campus in the coming weeks. This return will occur in stages based on a month-by-month plan developed by the university’s Incident Command Team (ICT).
This month-by-month approach occurs in six phases. The first phase occurred in March and April, and the second phase began May 1. This plan follows the latest guidance from local, state and federal public health agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Phelps-Maries County Health Department. In addition, all supervisors should make accommodations for at-risk employees or students who may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus than the general population.
Dr. Dennis Goodman, director of student health and S&T’s chief medical officer, continues to work closely with local public health and medical officials and, as a member of the ICT, continues to advise campus leadership on adopting this phased approach to reopening.
Goodman stresses that this plan may change, depending on how successful efforts to slow or mitigate the virus’s spread are.
At this point, here is how this phased approach will work:
Phase 1 (April): essential operations only
As most students departed campus and classes moved online in mid-March, most employees who were able to do their work remotely were also directed to work off-campus. Those who remained on campus were needed for essential operations, including law enforcement, custodial and maintenance services, and staffing for critical research labs. April saw more of these staff return to campus. These employees continue to carry out the important work of ensuring essential operations continue and to prepare for the broader repopulation of campus.
Phase 2 (May): gradual repopulation
This month saw the easing of stay-at-home restrictions throughout the state and locally. As state and local governments lifted restrictions and more businesses began to reopen, the emphasis on social distancing continued. More staff are now returning to campus, including directors and supervisors who will assess their work locations to consider possible adjustments or reconfigurations needed to comply with social distancing and other guidelines. As more research labs reopen, additional research faculty, staff and students also are returning to campus this month.
Phase 3 (June): online summer sessions begin online
Four summer academic sessions will be held starting in June and continuing into July, but three of the sessions – one eight-week session and two four-week sessions – will be offered entirely online. The fourth session, planned for July 20 through Aug. 14, may involve on-campus instruction as well as online classes, depending on the situation in mid-July. As June begins, however, more staff and faculty will return to campus, including academic support, residential life and other student services staff, and additional research staff and research assistants. But June will not be bustling with summer camps, as all camps planned for June have been canceled or postponed.
Phase 4 (July): fourth summer session
Assuming the spread of COVID-19 has dissipated by the end of June and that the campus is prepared to offer some in-person instruction, expect to see more faculty and staff return to campus in July. This will include additional residential life and student support staff and athletics coaches and staff. Assuming the four-week summer session planned for July 20 through Aug. 14 will involve on-campus instruction as planned, students also will begin returning to campus.
Phase 5 (August): preparing for fall
As the university gears up for the fall semester, the majority of faculty and staff should be back on campus. Employees who have pre-existing medical conditions or who are otherwise at risk of catching the coronavirus may need to continue to work remotely, and those individuals should work with their supervisors on work arrangements. To ensure social distancing and safety, plans for move-in day and orientation week (Sunday, Aug. 16, through Friday, Aug. 21) may need to be altered. The fall semester is scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 24.
Phase 6 (September and beyond): school is in session
Assuming a successful opening of the fall semester, most employees and students should be back on campus.
More information to come
The success of this plan depends on how effective current and later practices are at minimizing the virus’s impact on operations. The practices of social distancing will continue, but the number of people permitted to gather in a single place may be relaxed to allow for more individuals to gather for meetings or events. Individuals should also work with their supervisors to plan taking vacation time in May and June to help minimize the number of staff returning to campus.
Many of the details have yet to be worked out, and many questions have yet to be addressed. Will large lectures be broken into smaller sections to accommodate physical distancing requirements? Will athletic events, performances and other large gatherings be allowed? What will be the living accommodations in the residence halls and Greek housing?
As the spring and summer progresses and campus leaders keep a watchful eye of developments related to the pandemic, more answers will be coming.