KU announces plan to resume some form of on-campus operations for fall semester

photo by: Associated Press

In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo, students walk in front of Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

Updated at 4:56 p.m. Friday

The University of Kansas is planning to resume on-campus operations in some capacity for the fall semester, officials announced Friday.

Following a five-step process that is somewhat similar to Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to reopen the state, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer announced their plan for a gradual resumption of operations at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. The full plan, though, does not currently have a set timeline.

In the near term, KU’s campus operations will not change drastically from the status quo of having only essential personnel report to work, even though the statewide stay-at-home order will expire at midnight on May 3.

“At this time, the Governor’s order will not change how we approach our work on May 4. We can expect county orders will continue to affect our operations,” a joint message from the two leaders said.

First and foremost, KU’s plan will be steered by guidance from federal, state and local health officials, and it is subject to flexibility.

“Our recovery as a university will be informed by science and accomplished in coordination with guidance from local, state and federal agencies,” Girod and Bichelmeyer said.

Phase one of the plan, which KU says it’s currently operating under, involves employees working from home and only conducting essential work and research in person with appropriate social-distancing measures.

Operations and support staff members will begin to return to campus in phase two of the plan, and will be identified as necessary to return by KU leadership. Phase two also requires those on campus to practice social distancing and wear cloth masks.

Phase three of the plan sees some reintegration of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students and research to the KU campus. Group sizes on campus will be limited to 10 or fewer people, and everyone will be asked to continue social distancing.

During phase four of the plan, the campus will be reopened to the full body of students, faculty and staff members, though social distancing will still be required and group sizes will be limited to 50 or fewer.

Phase five of the plan lifts all restrictions and fully opens KU’s campuses, allowing clubs, groups, events and classes to resume normal operations.

All told, because of continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, KU is planning for three different scenarios to take shape during the fall semester:

•Campuses are fully open;

•Campuses remain closed, with all classes online;

•A hybrid format in which some classes take place in person on campus and others take place online.

Going forward, eight workgroups have been established to represent different parts of the KU community. Bichelmeyer’s office will be responsible for collecting data from those groups on the level of ability to operate remotely versus the need for an in-person campus presence.

That data will be used in tandem with guidance from health officials to know when KU may be able to move to its next phase of the reopening plan.

Ultimately, the effort to resume operations at the state’s flagship university, which involves some 34,000 students and faculty members, requires caution and adaptability to ensure against setbacks in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, Girod and Bichelmeyer said.

“We must recognize the critical importance of designing and delivering instruction and services that accommodate the needs of our current and future students, regardless of their physical location or their health status,” the joint message said.


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