Kansas colleges make plans to reopen amid coronavirus
photo by: Nick Krug
WICHITA — Universities across Kansas are making plans to reopen their campuses, although classes will look a little different.
Universities in Kansas and across the county closed their campuses in March and moved classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic. State officials have now tasked the schools with setting their own reopening standards, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Wichita State University says it will offer in-person classes in the fall and will reopen student housing facilities to pre-COVID-19 occupancy levels.
The University of Kansas announced last week that its campus would be opening in the fall, and Kansas State University has proposed a phased approach that depends on specific criteria before reopening.
Wichita State is working to have a plan in place to keep the school operational if a second wave of the virus hits in the fall, as has been predicted by some medical experts. The university is training instructors and professors to quickly move their classes back online.
“We’re hoping that we’ll have very robust offerings like we normally do in the face-to-face environment,” Wichita State Provost Rick Muma said in an online town hall meeting.
“But we also need a plan for the possibility of that being a little different, especially if there’s a reemergence of the virus. We need to be prepared to be able to pivot in any way that we feel is appropriate,” he said.
Muma also said students should be prepared to take ownership of their own health. For students, that means adding masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to their back-to-school shopping list.
“I’ll be carrying a little bottle of hand sanitizer myself to make sure I’m constantly sanitizing my hands but also my work surface,” Muma said.
Wichita State, like other schools across the nation, faces a budget deficit to the tune of $6.8 million, President Jay Golden said. Part of that will be a decline in students who choose to reenroll after already taking classes at the school, he said.
“Our incoming freshmen is actually up,” he said. “We’re in a pretty good, healthy spot in that regard, especially compared to other universities.”
To make up for the shortfall, Golden said, the university has already begun making cuts to discretionary spending, such as out-of-state travel. As for a tuition increase, “That’s really up in the air right now,” he said, adding that any rate hike would be kept “very minimal.”
According to the latest count from Johns Hopkins University, Kansas has 174 COVID-19-related deaths and 6,800 cases. The actual number of cases, though is expected to be far higher because of limited testing and because many people who are infected don’t have symptoms.