Some fall classes at Florida universities will stay virtual

Administrators and students are wrestling with uncertainty about the 2020 school year

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s 12 universities are in the planning stage for students and staff to return to campus this fall, but health concerns and challenges with social distancing will make the 2020 college year unlike any before.

The universities’ presidents have been working on measures to reopen campuses for weeks.

Florida State University President John Thrasher said every decision administrators make results in five more questions for them to answer. Thrasher said he has multiple phone calls a week to discuss best practices.

“I’ve heard from a lot of our faculty members who have some underlying health issues who are in that critical age group,” he said. “We don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way.”

RELATED: Florida’s State University System makes plans for campuses to reopen

At FSU, the plan is to shift as many face-to-face classes to distance learning as possible.

A memo from administrators to deans and faculty warned on campus space is so limited, FSU can only accommodate one in four students with proper social distancing.

The uncertainty only compounds what has been an unusual year for students like Sarah Kissane, whose freshman year at FSU was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m very excited to go back,” Kissane said. “Because these are formative years for me. So I’m very excited to go back and experience things we may have missed.”

RELATED: Florida universities pivot to distance learning due to coronavirus

But space and distance in classroom settings remains a concern for Kissane, despite her enthusiasm.

“It is kind of wary, like thinking about going back and being in a big classroom situation because some of the classes I was in last semester were 200-300 people,” Kissane said.

More than anything, the soon-to-be sophomore wants some clear direction.

“And be able to directly and affirmatively say, ‘This is what we are doing,’” she said.

Each university has until June 23 to submit its plan for returning to classrooms. A final decision on how campuses will reopen is expected in July.

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