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OU announces COVID-19 social distancing plan for returning to in-person classes this fall

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Kyle Harper

Senior Vice President and Provost Kyle Harper during a Faculty Senate meeting March 9 at Jacobson Hall.

OU Provost Kyle Harper announced on Sunday the university’s plans for how to return to in-person classes this fall, and introduced the Safe and Resilient Instructional Plan, which will alter classroom sizes, move some courses online and lengthen time between classes.

In an email obtained by The OU Daily from Harper to university deans, chairs and directors, Harper said the university will take measures to “eliminate … the courses that pose the greatest challenge to social distancing,” and that the Safe and Resilient Instructional Plan will allow the university to move fully online again if there is a “serious resurgence of the virus.”

“Our intention is to return to in-person teaching and learning,” Harper said in the email. “There are still many uncertainties about what the future holds, but we need to be taking steps that will put us in the best position to return safely to in-person instruction and be flexible in light of the reality that we don’t know what the course of the pandemic will be.”

Harper said in the email the university will move classes with enrollments over 40 online. Classes with over 40 students make up 14 percent of all classes offered.

Harper also said the university will add new, smaller, in-person sections to 1000-level courses. 

“By making this decision now, we free up support (and) instructional design capacity that we may need later this summer or in the fall,” Harper said in the email.

Harper said in the email the university will place class sections in bigger classrooms and aim for 50–75 percent occupancy “wherever practical.”

Harper also said in the email the university will spread out the class schedule by leaving 30-minute gaps between classes to “reduce congestion entering and leaving buildings and facilitate social distancing.”

“These decisions have not been made lightly, and they have been developed with extensive consultation from the deans and the faculty senate committee,” Harper said in the email. “We are all deeply grateful for the continuous hard work and solidarity from our community.”

Harper said in the email it may be necessary to move other courses, such as “those that connect disparate networks of individuals” or courses “taught by instructors who fall into CDC high-risk categories,” online.

Harper said in the email that “options with regard to testing (and) tracing and (personal protective equipment) are being constantly assessed,” and decisions about testing, tracing and personal protective equipment will be made “on the best science available.” 

Harper also said in the email the university’s Clean and Green Initiative will deploy touchless faucets and toilets, upgraded air systems with hospital-grade filters and commercial electrostatic sprayers for use in high-traffic areas.

“Let’s be ready to take on this new future together, protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff, and accomplishing our academic goals in the face of whatever challenges may lay ahead,” Harper said in the email.

This article has been updated to include that classes with over 40 students make up 14 percent of all classes offered.

Beth Wallis is a senior journalism major and political science minor, and news managing editor for The Daily. Previously, she worked as a junior news reporter covering university research.

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