More Testing And Online Classes: Florida's Public Universities Start To Examine A Fall Reopening
What could college classes look like when students return in the Fall? It’s likely fewer of them will meet in-person according to Florida State University Provost Sally McRorie.
In an email to faculty, McRorie says some labs or courses that require special equipment or environments could meet in person while most others will need to be done through distance learning. In the April meeting of FSU’s Board of Trustees, University President John Thrasher said welcoming students back to campus depends largely on the health and safety situation.
“I think we’re all waiting to see that. Hopefully, the plateau is there. No one believes there’s going to be a vaccine but there may be some treatments that will be available. There are going to be some testing issues we’re going to have to deal with. A lot of logistics out there, before I would feel comfortable opening the university,” he said.
Thrasher said universities will need to make decisions for Fall around July. Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson has said the availability of testing will be an important factor in reopening considerations. FAMU is currently hosting a walk-up testing site and Robinson says the university is taking notes.
“I think this is very, very important because as institutions…within [the university system] and elsewhere talk about how they might restart and when. As of now a lot of emphases will be placed on testing so this might position us as an institution to be in a better position when it comes to that because we’ve actually had the operational activity done on our campus,” he recently told his board of trustees.
The State University System governing board has made a task force of university officials to make recommendations on how universities should proceed.
“Knowing there are 12 distinctive universities within our system…I believe under the constraints of the existing pandemic, a university plan to reopen will need to be deliberate, thoughtful, and with a clear, specific path,” said Board of Governors Chairman Syd Kitson.
In mid-March, Florida’s public colleges and universities sent tens of thousands of students home and moved nearly 50,000 classes online. Students are receiving partial refunds for canceled housing and meal plans. But a recently filed lawsuit against the board of governors calls on schools to refund course fees as well. The lead plaintiff is a University of Florida student.
In recent weeks, the colleges and universities have grown increasingly concerned about revenue losses for the Fall as enrollments show signs of declining, private support slows, and state officials begin to raise the possibility of budget cuts.