The UF Board of Trustees unanimously voted to submit its Fall reopening plan to the Florida Board of Governors in a meeting Friday.
Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini, who is also the CEO of a homebuilding company, said the university will continue to make revisions to the plan based on suggestions from university administrators, new information on COVID-19 and public critique and submit them to the Board of Trustees for approval.
The plan is due to the Board of Governors by June 12, but it may still be subject to change based on evolving COVID-19 conditions, Hosseini said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis phoned in to the beginning of Thursday's UF Board of Trustees meeting to encourage the university officials to hold classes on-campus in Fall.
Florida has seen a high rate of COVID-19 deaths among the elderly, but there have been zero fatalities among college-aged students, and the state has enough COVID-19 tests available for a cautious opening, DeSantis said.
“I've seen some universities who said, ‘We're just gonna do distance learning,’ and to me that's throwing in the towel,” DeSantis said. “We've now progressed to a point where we need to be having education on campus for folks.”
Hosseini and UF President Kent Fuchs outlined plans for reopening campus this Fall in Thursday's meeting. The plan includes COVID-19 safety awareness and prevention strategies from UF Health, smaller in-person courses and more hybrid and online options, they said.
UF Provost Joe Glover also said UF and other universities are considering a plan to not require students to return to campus after Thanksgiving break. Most students only return after Thanksgiving break to take final exams, he said. While this is still being discussed, the requirements that demand students return to campus after break would no longer be required.
The university will follow a blueprint issued May 28 by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 12 public universities under the State University System. The blueprint describes policies and training protocols promoting health and safety measures on campus.
UF will submit its plans to the Board of Governors for approval Friday, Fuchs said. The plans are likely to change to accommodate COVID-19 updates on local and national levels.
The board is made up of seventeen members, fourteen of whom are appointed by the governor and approved by the Florida Senate.
Fuchs said their plan has been guided by experts from UF Health. Dr. David Nelson and Dr. Michael Lauzardo from UF Health discussed the details of UF’s Screen Test and Protect program.
Under the program, every student will be required to take a survey to determine if they could have symptoms or if they are at “high risk,” for infection according to Nelson. Students who come from hotspot areas for the virus might be considered high risk.
Not all students will require testing, but if high risk is determined by the screening, the student will have to do a telehealth visit and get tested.
Testing is available for students concerned about contracting the virus but not required. The university will require students on campus to remain socially distant and wear masks.
Melanie Ross, UF Health’s chief communications officer, said they are focused on reducing the spread of COVID-19 by fostering health awareness on campus. To change student behavior, she said, they want students to connect with what they value at UF.
In the Fall,
The format of about 4,500 to 5,000 classes must be revised by each college in preparation, Glover said, and in-person classroom capacities will be reduced by 75 percent.
They are working on having certain courses, which will be taught face-to-face with multiple people in a classroom setting. Experiential courses, such as labs, that require students to meet in-person will be held in a hybrid format, with time split between on-campus and online learning.
Online classes that require students to meet at set times, called synchronous courses, and classes that allow students to work at their own pace, called asynchronous courses, will also be available.
Certain classes will be broken into multiple sections, which will cause some classes to be taught on a different day or time than originally planned, Glover said.
Courses will be finalized by July 1 to give students time to evaluate their new schedules and make adjustments as needed, Glover said.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect information from the June 5 UF Board of Trustees meeting, in which the Board voted to submit the reopening plan to the Florida Board of Governors.