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2 Md. universities aim for large-scale fall reopenings

7-28-16 BALTIMORE, MD- Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC seen here on Capmus for a Q+A and story about the 50th anniversary of the University. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is working toward having most of its in-person instruction restored in the fall 2021 semester, officials said.  (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Two Maryland universities have announced that they anticipate large-scale reopenings in the fall. 

A campus-wide communication sent on Thursday by the University of Maryland, College Park’s President Darryll Pines stated that he anticipates most faculty, staff and students will have been vaccinated by next fall, allowing the campus to return to “normal operations.” Still, he left open the possibility that some classes will continue to operate remotely or in a hybrid format, and that some employees may be able to work remotely at least some of the time.

“Though we cannot forecast with certainty, we expect that the majority of our campus community will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine before the beginning of the fall semester,” Pines said in the email. “Classes designed for in-person delivery are expected to be delivered face-to-face on campus this fall semester, and staff will be expected to resume their on-campus roles.”

President Freeman Hrabowski and Provost Philip Rous, of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, announced in a Friday email that “at this time, we are committed to maximizing in-person instruction within the constraints of physical distancing.”

The final decision to reopen will be determined by the progress of vaccine distribution efforts in the coming months, the announcement stated. Hrabowski and Rous, like Pines, also stated that despite the planned increase in on-campus activity in the fall, members of the UMBC community with health concerns will have the opportunity to continue with online options.

“Now that we have identified our goal, we have started working on specific implementation strategies. We will start by creating a fall schedule that significantly increases in-person instruction and offers flexibility, as health conditions require,” the email said. “As we work toward our academic goals, we will always take into account the needs of students, faculty and staff.”

Both UMD and UMBC are currently operating in a hybrid model, with the majority of classes taking place fully online and a small portion — 25% at UMD and only 10% at UMBC — including an in-person component. Both universities have students living on campus and in-person research activity.

In his email, Pines said he is aware that returning to campus may prove a difficult adjustment, after having been away for nearly a year and a half, at that point. But he stressed the importance of on-campus interactions and instruction: “Being together brings with it much more than teaching a class or staffing an office. It allows faculty, staff and students to interact more frequently and get to know one another; researchers to innovate and collaborate; and students to benefit from all that our campus has to offer.”

UMD and UMBC both encouraged campus community members to register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.

Pines noted that UMD is working towards distributing vaccines through the university, and that information on that distribution will be released by the school’s health center when it becomes available.

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