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Morgan State announces fall 2020 reopening plans

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Morgan State University President David K. Wilson Monday announced plans to reopen for the fall 2020 semester, including guidelines for health and safety, instruction and academics, life on campus and school personnel. Fall classes will begin Sept. 9. (File photo)

Morgan State University President David K. Wilson Monday announced plans to reopen for the fall 2020 semester, including guidelines for health and safety, instruction and academics, life on campus and school personnel.

Fall classes will begin Sept. 9. The last day for face -to-face classes will be the day before the Thanksgiving break, Nov. 25. Following Thanksgiving break, all remaining instruction and/or assessment will be conducted remotely until the last day of classes on Dec. 15.

Research (particularly lab-based research requiring access to essential on-campus facilities) will be conducted in compliance with current federal and state regulations and guidelines.

All study abroad programs for the Fall 2020 semester have been suspended.

Health and safety

The University Health Center (UHC) will be the designated point of contact coordinating with local and state health officials for all matters pertaining to testing, temperature checks, contact tracing, case reporting and mitigation management (quarantine plans). The UHC, along with the University Counseling Center, will also incorporate telehealth, online appointments, and rapid triage into its operational plans. We will be recruiting two additional professional counselors to join our Counseling Center to help our University community cope with the stressors brought on by COVID-19.

Prior to the campus reopening, there will be thorough sanitizing of campus facilities, including classrooms and common/public spaces with scheduled routine maintenance throughout the semester. There will also be increased availability of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipe stations throughout campus. This was the desire of the majority of the staff who responded to our survey.

Students, faculty and staff returning to campus can expect to receive a “Return to Campus Care Package” consisting of complimentary supplies, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer and health tips.

Everyone in the Morgan campus community will be supplied with a copy of the university’s “Rules of Social Engagement” which will contain best practices to promote safe social interaction and will assist in the healthy self-regulation of shared spaces.

All students, faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear protective face coverings in all university buildings and facilities. Face coverings will also be required when physical distancing may be limited in outdoor spaces.

Campus classrooms, dining halls and the canteen, as well as specified entrances/exits, will be modified to support appropriate physical distancing. In some high-traffic service areas and instructional spaces plexiglass barriers will be installed.

Signage to support reinforcement of CDC guidelines will be posted throughout the campus. The signage, which will include directional and distancing markers, will be used to encourage physical distancing.

Members of the Morgan community will be encouraged to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. The use of testing, temperature checking, contact tracing and self-isolation will be performed when and where applicable and in compliance with guidance from local and state health officials. We are currently in conversation with Johns Hopkins University regarding the feasibility to assist us with testing and tracing.

Instruction/academics

The university will offer two modalities of course delivery: in-person and remote instruction. Some courses will be a hybrid of in-person and remote learning while others will be online-only. For the hybrid courses (those not designated as online only), students will have the choice to receive instruction either face-to-face (dependent upon classroom availability and space) or remotely. These two methods of instructional delivery were the favorites among the more than 3,000 students who responded to our survey.

The university will be making a financial investment of more than $5 million, made available through federal funding, to retrofit classroom spaces with technology upgrades to accommodate expanded remote and hybrid instruction.

Campus life

On-campus housing capacity will be reduced by 31 percent due to the conversion of many multi-occupancy rooms to single occupancy.

Rooms on campus in traditional residence halls and apartments with community bathrooms, will be assigned as singles to reduce on-campus population density and to support social distancing. On-campus housing assignments will be based upon timely receipt of application submissions as well as requests for special accommodations. For rooms with more than one occupant, social distancing configurations, which may include the placement of dividers, will be put into place.

To accommodate the need for additional housing space, the university is contracting externally to secure additional space at nearby hotels and apartment buildings.

While students will not be asked to vacate the residence halls at the conclusion of the face-to-face instruction in November, though it is recommended, any student wishing to vacate his/her residence is free to do so. No refunds will be issued to students electing to vacate campus housing at the end of face-to-face instruction.

Dining services will be adjusted to accommodate a lower-density model consisting of limited dine-in options with social distancing protocols in place and increased “grab & go” meal options.

Outside of plans to host the postponed spring Commencement in October and fall commencement in December, no other decisions have been made regarding events being held on campus in the fall. This matter is still under discussion and evaluation.

Personnel

There will be a phased return of personnel to campus, in alignment with Gov. Larry Hogan’s Executive Order lifting some of the restrictions around telework, reopening of businesses and reopening of state agencies.

Morgan’s incremental return to campus will be executed accordingly:

  • Phase One will commence on Monday, June 8, with the start of the return of MSU’s Physical Plant staff (their return will be phased), who will begin the process of getting the campus prepared for reopening;
  • Phase Two will involve the return of our student athletes;
  • Phase Three will be the return of some regular staff;
  • Phase Four will include the return of our faculty; and
  • Phase Five will culminate with the return of the general student population.

The University has obtained the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and will be providing it to all frontline essential employees as needed to carry out their duties.

CDC guidelines regarding high risk employees as well as the state’s guidedelines and labor regulations, will be applied to determine an individual’s capacity to work on-campus and to guide employment decisions.

Telework policies will remain in effect with telework schedules in place where appropriate, along with staggered work schedules to support reduced population density on campus.

Staff will receive training on safety and prevention strategies commensurate with their respective role and responsibility.


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