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Monday, September 20, 2021

UF braces for impact before students return to in-person classes in Spring

40% of undergrad students are enrolled in face-to-face classes

With Spring just over one month away, UF hammered out plans for a return to campus and face-to-face classes. Not much will change.

Masks will be mandatory in UF public spaces, both indoors and out. Cleaning crews will scrub high-touch points in dorms, libraries and classrooms. Dorms will stay at limited capacity, though visiting restrictions will be loosened. UF Health, Student Affairs and Housing directors appear confident in the ability to contain COVID-19 cases and are optimistic about vaccinations beginning in the Spring.

During Spring registration, 14,500 undergrad students enrolled in at least one face-to-face course – about 40% of the 36,000 total undergrads. There are 4,908 face-to-face undergrad class sections open for Spring. This is only slightly fewer than the 5,030 sections in Spring 2020.

With more students returning to campus and face-to-face classes, there will be new rules to remember as they grab a mask and head out the door. 

HOUSING

On-campus living will increase this Spring with 432 new dorm contracts signed – an increase of 7% from UF’s Fall residents, UF Housing communications director Sara Tanner said.

Tanner said she does not expect any challenges in the Spring.

“We’re really optimistic,” Tanner said. “We want students to have a good experience in and out of COVID.” 

Riker Hall, Trusler Hall and Lakeside building 2 were reserved as quarantine dorms this Fall. With more students returning in Spring, East Hall will be closed to provide more quarantine beds.

After UF failed to secure quarantine transportation for students in the Fall, the university made efforts to drive students who were not cleared for campus. Quarantine transportation will continue to be available this Spring. 

Students involved in Greek life and in on-campus housing will receive mandatory COVID-19 testing, which will occur every two weeks for the first six weeks of the Spring semester.

Resident Assistants in dorms will be allowed to host both socially-distanced and masked in-person events in addition to virtual ones in the Spring. In-person RA events were prohibited this Fall. 

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In Spring, on-campus students will be able to visit residents who live in other on-campus residence halls. During Fall, only students on the same floor were considered guests and allowed to visit other dorm rooms. A rule made in the Fall mandating that guests cannot stay overnight will stay in effect.

Off-campus guests will still not be allowed in dorms, apart from the two guests helping a student move in, Tanner said. In the Fall, move-in was extended from four to 12 days to allow for distancing. 

Tanner assured the increased cleaning protocols introduced in the Fall will continue. 

Shared bathrooms in dorm buildings will be cleaned weekly by housing staff and high touch points, like door handles and elevator buttons, will be disinfected regularly.

LIBRARIES

The nine libraries across campus will remain at 25% capacity unless the university releases new recommendations, UF Libraries communications director Barbara Hood said. Capacity counters will stay in place in the Spring and high-touch areas like door handles will be frequently sanitized. Gator 1 IDs will still be required to access the libraries.

Group study rooms will stay closed. 

Libraries have not struggled with capacity limits this semester, and there have been no lines, she said. 

If students ask for longer hours on weekends the UF Libraries are able to make that happen, Hood said. 

“We won’t be open 24/7 anymore – for a while,” Hood said.

DINING

UF dining halls will function the same as the Fall. Pre-packaged meals will be available for take-out or students dining in. Seating at tables will be separated by 6 feet and masks must be worn when not eating.

Hours of operation reflect demand in the Spring based on foot traffic, UF Issues, Management and Crisis Communications director Hessy Fernandez wrote in an email. In the Fall, dining halls were open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

MASKS & CLASSES

UF facility services stocked every classroom with disinfectant wipes dispensers and hand sanitizer. 

This will allow students and faculty to sanitize their surfaces – desks and chairs – between classes, Fernandez wrote.

Clear plastic protective barriers were installed at help desks and welcome areas in the Fall. However, there are no planned installments of additional protective barriers at this time, Fernandez wrote in an email.

UF facilities services worked with individual colleges to set up additional spaces for face-to-face instruction. 

Extra masks for students will be stored in the 350 classrooms available for classes.

This Fall, 14,000 Gator Care kits, packages containing masks and hand sanitizer were distributed, Student Affairs Vice President D’Andra Mull said. In the Spring, more care packages will be available first to those that did not receive one this semester, then all students. 

UF Provost Joseph Glover said the maximum capacity in classrooms could increase if UF Health approves a change in social distancing guidelines.

“With the advent of vaccines, we expect that this coming fall, there will be no physical distancing requirements, and all classroom classrooms will return to full capacity,” Glover said. 


Contact Jack at jprator@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @jack_prator.

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