Reopening campus

A graduate takes photos as a masked photographer captures the moment on May 2, 2020. The campus was officially closed at Spring Break, but many seniors came back in early May to collect belongings from off-campus housing and have one last day in Athens.

Ohio University announced Thursday morning plans to reopen its campuses in the fall.

Students had been sent home following an extended spring break due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, finishing the semester online.

According to a university press release, the school will be following the guidance of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and public health officials. Because of this, the press release continues, OU has been working on several scenarios to safely reopen on-campus operations.

Collaborative planning across its “shared governance structure” has begun to take place. These planning measures include a public health group focused on testing and quarantine needs and coordinating with local public health officials; a group focused on personal protective equipment supplies and procurement; a group focused on bringing employees back safely; an academic scenario planning group; a student experiences group; an academic policy group; and a group focused on research and lab spaces.

“Plans from each are being brought to a coordinating council to make recommendations to the President by the end of June,” the university’s press release stated.

OU will also collaborate with other higher education institutions to guide decision making, the release added.

“Should it be necessary or required to start the fall semester remotely, we will be prepared with a full array of courses using innovative modalities,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs. “Our outstanding faculty are already working with the Office of Instructional Innovation and University Libraries to draw on the University’s longstanding strength in distance education.”

President M. Duane Nellis said his team is planning for a “new normal.”

“It is our hope and intention that we will return to in-person instruction in the fall if it is safe for us to do so,” he said in the press release.

The university has been facing many budget issues for a while, which have worsened due to COVID-19. This includes a loss of about $18 million of revenue, which was issued in refunds to students for pro-rated housing, dining and parking fees.

To help address funding issues, OU recently announced the 140 custodian and food workers of AFSCME Local 1699 will be let go and that Shively Dining Hall, located on East Green and near Park Place, will be closed for the Fall Semester. The state’s share of instruction costs has also been slashed because of the pandemic, cutting $6.6 million alone from OU’s budget and a total of $110 million from the state’s total instruction share budget.

Further information about campus reopening, the university’s response to COVID-19 and other pandemic-related topics, go to ohio.edu/coronavirus.

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