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Planning for an in-person fall at the University of Idaho

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Scott Green

It happens every year: Come August, the University of Idaho springs to life as students and faculty return for fall classes in Moscow and at our centers around the state.

We are looking forward to that return of students this year more than ever. It hasn’t been the same without them on campus. We are committed to re-opening for in-person instruction this fall, offering the rich, destination-campus experience for which we have been known for the past 130 years. Nothing replaces direct student/instructor interaction and the unique discussions that come from being together in person.

We are doing everything we can to offer that experience in a safe and healthy environment. The University of Idaho is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 safest campuses in the country, and we intend to keep it that way. We are working closely with public health officials as well as the governor’s office and State Board of Education to ensure we proceed safely. We cannot eliminate COVID-19 from our communities, but we can slow its spread with deliberate, science-based actions.

COVID-19 testing will be part of our fall strategy; we will require all Moscow-based students to get tested when they arrive and will conduct continued, routine testing during the semester. Thanks to a partnership between the University of Idaho and Gritman Medical Center in Moscow, the university is the only place in North Idaho where in-house COVID-19 testing will be conducted — enabling results in approximately 24 hours. For those who need to isolate, housing, food and medical services will be provided. We’re also installing thermal imaging scanners in high-traffic areas to help those in our community monitor their health. We’re supplying cloth face coverings to all students and faculty and requiring everyone wear them in classrooms and situations where social distancing isn’t possible. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant have been distributed throughout campus as we double down on sanitizing high-traffic areas.

Our intent is to offer live instruction wherever possible. Some classes will be reduced in size, others will be moved to larger classrooms and event spaces to accommodate social distancing. Students in some courses will alternate between in-person and live-streamed sessions. Where no other method for safe learning is available, classes will be offered completely online.

Orientation, student move-in and fraternity and sorority recruitment will all happen on a slightly adjusted schedule this August to accommodate safety protocols. Housing and Residence Life is reconfiguring traffic patterns and providing single rooms in some halls to aid social distancing. Meals will be available at The HUB dining hall and food court locations in accordance with CDC guidelines, including plexiglass shields, take-out options and limited seating.

Despite these changes, our students will still receive a true residential campus experience and an education that prepares them for the workplace. We are a university that puts the needs of its students first and graduates successful alumni at a cost well below our national peers.

Months of planning have gone into our plans for fall, including a decision to shift to online/remote instruction following Thanksgiving after members of the Vandal Family travel home for the holiday. It is our intention to keep all U of I locations open this December, only course delivery will change.

These have been difficult times for all of us, but we’re excited to welcome everyone back and look forward to seeing you soon in Moscow or at one of our centers around the state. Until then, as we say on campus, Keep Calm and Vandal On.

Scott Green is president of the University of Idaho.

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