76ºF

Florida Board of Governors approves ‘blueprint for reopening’ universities

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The governing body of the State University System of Florida unanimously approved a plan for reopening universities that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Board of Governors is providing the State University System of Florida Blueprint for Reopening Campuses for fall semester 2020 that identifies critical elements to guide the 12 state universities as each one develops an individualized plan,” the draft of the blueprint document said. “Each university has a dedicated mission with unique strengths and characteristics, and it is important to recognize that each campus community has an extraordinary environment that includes students from all regions of the state, nation and world.”

The blueprint, which was discussed in the board of governors meeting Thursday afternoon, clearly indicates that university life will undergo changes from the pre-COVID-19 era.

“As all universities continue to work to enhance health and safety precautions, academic pursuits, social interactions, extracurricular activities, and athletics will occur in new and unique formats that will still be positive and rewarding experiences,” the draft said.

Health & Safety Guidelines

The blueprint includes specific health and safety parameters for the individual universities to address in their reopening strategies.

The institutions will have to follow all CDC, state and local guidelines for social distancing, and include procedures for enforcement of them.

While the use of face masks and hand-sanitizer is not outright required under the blueprint, it directs each college to address those tools in their strategies.

All students and employees will have to be briefed on all the established requirements of their respective institutions.

“Each university plan should consider the campus’s current and projected health environment as it plans for the gradual and measured approval of student extracurricular activities, including Greek organization operations and functions, student organizations, clubs, intramural sports, and social gatherings," the blueprint said.

The universities will also need to have the ability to clean all campus facilities on a regular basis.

The blueprint also advises colleges to work with their local municipalities on coordinating safety policies and guidelines.

Testing & Tracing Guidelines

Testing also must be considered by each university. The blueprint instructs the institutions to create a screening process for identifying who needs to be tested. Health care providers also need to have a plan to respond quickly to “hot spots” on campus.

Universities are also given direction on contact tracing and surveillance.

“Universities should work with the Department of Health and the local county health departments to determine if universities can assist the Department in contact tracing efforts for individuals testing positive,” the blueprint said.

A place to isolate a potential positive case of the coronavirus will need to be identified in each campus facility and the blueprint required resources to be made available to care for any individual who tests positive.

Each university will also need to define an outbreak threshold of positive cases that would trigger tighter restrictions and a potential shut down of the campus.

Academic Program Guidelines

“Universities should continue to explore new and creative ways to use technology to deliver classes in a variety of delivery modes using alternative instructional formats and hybrid combinations of face-to-face and online delivery modes,” the blueprint said.

Universities are directed to provide alternatives to all students and faculty who cannot participate in the normal classroom format due to increased health risk factors.

All classroom sizes and densities need to be adjusted per CDC, state and local guidelines, according to the blueprint.

“Universities are encouraged to consider varied course scheduling and calendar options to accommodate alternative instructional delivery formats,” said the blueprint. “Faculty training and professional development should continue to provide enhanced training and support for new online technologies and non-traditional modes of delivery of instruction.”

Finally, universities are directed to be flexible from the time they develop their reopening plan to the beginning of the school year, given the expectation by university leaders that the COVID-19 climate will change significantly in the months ahead.

The board plans to hold a face-to-face meeting on June 23 on the UCF campus to hear the specific reopening plans from each university.