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Florida’s Major Public Universities Roll Out Fall Reopening Plans As Florida COVID-19 Cases Spike

As Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla, and the Florida Department of Education have required public schools to fully reopen in August, Florida’s public universities have released reopening plans within the past month consisting of mostly online curriculum.

While each reopening plan contains unique information, many universities have established similar methods to keep students and staff safe.

Nearly all of Florida’s public universities have promised enhanced on-campus sanitation measures, reduced on-campus housing capacity, and allocation of quarantine rooms in residence halls. Additionally, wearing face masks have widely been mandated on campuses across the state.

Variations of COVID-19 screening and testing have been indicated in most university reopening plans. Universities like the University of South Florida plan to make testing a requirement for students to return to campus.

The University of Florida officially released its reopening plan on July 10 following delays due to statewide surges in coronavirus cases. With the start date of classes getting pushed to August 31, fall term final exams are required to be completed by December 18.

The fall classes will be facilitated through a variety of methods, including in-person classes, hybrid, as well as asynchronous and synchronous online classes. Around 35% of all undergraduate, graduate and professional courses at UF will be delivered either in person or as a hybrid course.

“Everything we have done has been guided by, has been branded by and has been led by our health experts at UF Health,” UF President Kent Fuchs explained.

Florida State University approved and released its reopening plan on June 23, along with most other public universities in Florida.

FSU will begin classes on August 24, with classes ending December 11. However, FSU stated in their reopening plan that they aim to shift all in-person classes to online following Thanksgiving break in an attempt to mitigate any local outbreaks of coronavirus. FSU has also specifically canceled international programs in London, Florence and Valencia in the wake of the current status of the pandemic.

The University of Central Florida has affirmed a combination of in-person, hybrid, virtual and BlendFlex Model classes in addition to providing training to students on the new policies set forth in the reopening plan.

In an effort to prevent another outbreak, UCF plans to carry out contact tracing of coronavirus through student volunteers. The university has also allowed for employees to work from home at the discretion and flexibility of their managers.

“The most effective things each of us can do is wear a face covering when we are around others and practice physical distancing,” stated UCF President Alexander Cartwright.

USF also released their reopening plan on June 23 in which it asserted that large lecture halls would be converted to an online format whereas classes that are best suited for in-person learning will still remain in person. Furthermore, the university plans to continue the availability of telework for employees throughout the upcoming semester to ease transmission concerns.

Florida International University has issued a repopulating plan as well, stating that classes are beginning on Aug. 24 with a third of those classes being either in person or hybrid. All study abroad programs have been tentatively canceled until Dec. 1, and the length of dorm move-in dates will be expanded to lessen move-in crowds.

FIU has also ensured that 65 beds on campus will be designated for coronavirus patients in quarantine. FIU employees will continue to work from home until Aug. 8 where the return of FIU employees will be evaluated further as the pandemic continues.

At the Florida universities’ Board of Governors meeting in late June, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees emphasized the significance of the “personal responsibility” of students due to the increasing number of cases in younger demographics.

As Florida’s new cases recently shattered national single-day increase records, Rivkees’ advice may remain relevant to any future adaptations of reopening plans over the coming weeks before students return to campus.

The Florida Department of Education building. Unmodified photo used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/2ZPyVpr)

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