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What we know about OU’s efforts to prepare for fall semester amid COVID-19 via Safe and Resilient Instructional Plan

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Empty campus in front of the Oklahoma Memorial Union on the first day of online classes after Spring Break on March 23.

This post serves as a collection of updates, questions and answers regarding OU's plans for the coming months in the wake of COVID-19. It will be updated regularly as more becomes clear, and offer the community transparency on the questions The Daily is seeking answers to.

If you have tips or questions you'd like to see answered, please considering using our CuriOUs form.

10:26 a.m. Friday, July 31: 

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith confirmed to The Daily in an email that tents, varying in size, will be set up at several locations across campus starting the week of Aug. 10. This will be to supplement indoor common spaces like the Oklahoma Memorial Union and Bizzell Memorial Library, as those areas will have limited venue capacities. 

In response to other questions, Keith sent the following: 

Will OU revoke charters from Greek fraternities and sororities that disregard masking and social distancing?

All OU registered student organizations are required to abide by the Student Organization Code of Conduct.  The process applies to the conduct of student organizations and their members. Any code violations, such as not abiding a University policy, such as mandatory masking, will be addressed through the student conduct process.  

How is the university able to keep track of positive-testing individuals on campus? How will the university know how many cases it has to make informed decisions?

Goddard Health Center works with the Cleveland County Health Department to trace contacts of positive cases who are affiliated with the University. This ongoing working relationship, along with the numbers collected by Cleveland County Health Department, and the University's COVID-19 Screening and Reporting form will allow the University to make informed decisions. 

4:40 p.m. Friday, July 24: 

The Daily sent a list of questions to OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith. The following are the questions and Keith's responses.  

In reference to the university’s new testing requirement for all students moving into on-campus housing: 

How does the cost of this testing compare with the cost of testing for OU's athletic department? 

  • A Vault saliva-based home testing kit costs OU Housing approximately $114 per test which includes costs of shipping. 

Keith referred The Daily to OU Assistant Athletics Director for Strategic Communications Mike Houck for information on the cost of testing for athletes. 

How reliable are these test results, as students can test negative and then contract COVID-19 the next day? 

  • There are no perfect tests for COVID-19. If done too early after exposure to the infection, they can be falsely negative, and yes, a student can do the test and subsequently be exposed or infected. We are specifically asking all students to self-isolate after they do the test and until they arrive on campus to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.

For more information on testing, visit the Vault Health website. 

How will the university pay for mandatory testing before students move into on-campus housing?

  • The OU Housing budget is covering the cost of testing.

In previous reopening phases, the university hasn’t had access to testing results. Will they have access to the testing results of this phase, as students begin to move onto campus? 

  • The testing company contracted by the University to perform tests has agreed to provide test results to the student and OU Health Services.  The University will only receive the COVID test results and use them for determining whether the student is eligible to move into the residence halls. 

Which part of Traditions will students that test positive for COVID-19 be housed in? What do administrators plan to do for students that permanently live in Traditions, as students with active COVID-19 cases will be housed there? 

  • On-campus students who need to self-isolate will be provided a space in Traditions. Each of these locations have their own entry, HVAC and will be placed in temporary apartments. Assistance will be provided from OU staff. OU Health Services will work with students for recovery; OU Food Services will provide delivered meals; and OU Residence Life will check in with these students daily and will connect them with resources and services as needed. Rooms are designed for students to have one bedroom and one bathroom per person. Students assigned to these spaces will not be paired with existing residents. 

Is the administration aware of the petition created by the owner of Cross Village calling for OU to allow first-year students to live there? Are administrators considering that in their development of reopening plans?  

  • The University is aware of the petition. Although the University has and continues to support Cross, the University is not including Cross in COVID-19 response planning.  The University has sufficient space to accommodate the needs of students living in the University’s residence halls and residential colleges. 

4:05 p.m. Friday, July 24 

OU administrators announced the Norman campus Phase III plan, set to begin Aug. 3, which includes masking requirements and venue capacity limits in buildings and rooms across campus. Read more about it here

3:04 p.m. Tuesday, June 30

After the announcement of Florida State University's policy to rescind remote work privileges from faculty and staff for taking care of their children while working remotely, The Daily asked OU, will faculty and staff be allowed to care for their children from home while working remotely?

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith replied with a statement from the university:

Currently, the university encourages telecommuting wherever practical in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Managers have been directed to demonstrate flexibility with employees whose personal circumstances require care for dependents, including, but not limited to, allowing employees to work unconventional hours while telecommuting to accomplish necessary tasks.

1:03 p.m. Tuesday, June 30

The Daily asked the university if faculty or staff refuse to return to their classrooms due to COVID-19 concerns, regardless of preventative measures, what action if any will the university take against these employees?

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith replied with a statement from the university:

"Currently, the university has issued guidance on Phase II of the COVID-19 Return Plan which covers the dates July 6 through August 2, 2020. As there is no in-person classroom experience during Phase II, no details regarding employees returning to the classroom were included in this phase of the plan. OU leadership is in the process of finalizing Phase III of the COVID-19 Return Plan which is scheduled to occur on August 3, 2020. Additional information about plans for Phase III will be communicated in July. The university is also in the process of considering employee concerns of this nature and will provide guidance in the near future."

3:12 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith said in an email that additional research personnel who are approved after completing OU’s health screening tool will return to campus July 1. All research personnel who returned to campus for Phase I were tested. 

Keith said in the email that Phase II returnees must complete OU’s health screening tool and be cleared by OU Health Services before returning to campus. 

“Health Services will make informed decisions about allowing an employee to return to campus based on the information provided from the screening and through in-person conversations with returnees,” Keith said in the email. “PCR testing only determines an employee’s health status on the day they are tested, providing just a picture of a moment in time, which is why the Phase II return for employees is focused on screening and masking protocols.”

Any employees reporting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 may be tested, as well as those who have had direct contact with a “known positive case” or an individual being investigated or contact traced for COVID-19, Keith said in the email.  

11:26 a.m. Wednesday, June 24

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith gave the following statement in an email: 

At this time, Goddard Health Center has six trained staff members who can act as contact tracers for the OU Norman campus. They work in conjunction with the Cleveland County Health Department and the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The University will continually assess the need to possibly train additional contact tracers.    

8:23 p.m. Friday, June 19

When asked about the fact that OU Athletics confirmed at least one player has COVID-19, but the university hasn’t announced the COVID-19 testing results of Phase I returnees to campus, OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith said questions regarding athletics should be directed to Assistant Athletics Director for Communications Mike Houck. 

When asked about the COVID-19 testing results of Phase I returnees, Keith gave the following statement in an email: 

The University works in conjunction with the Oklahoma State Department of Health in OSDH’s efforts related to COVID-19. In accordance with Health Department procedures, contact tracers notify all those who come in contact with positive individuals. As a courtesy and update on the Phase 1 plan, 605 research personnel were tested with zero positive results.

4:25 p.m. Tuesday, June 16

OU’s Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia outlined procedures for nonessential research and creative activity programs to return to the Norman campus after being suspended due to COVID-19 in an email to faculty Monday afternoon.

In the email, Díaz de la Rubia described the Phase 2 return to campus, which follows the Phase 1 return to campus which began May 6. During Phase 1, approximately 600 faculty, students and research staff were authorized to return to campus.

According to the email, Phase 2 “significantly expands the types of activities that will be contemplated, but maintains certain requirements related to safety in the research and creative activity environment, such as the approval of a detailed conduct-of-operations plan,” and will be open to all research and creative activity — not only sponsored research — that cannot be accomplished remotely.

The Phase 2 cohort is expected to commence work on July 1. Read more about the update here.

6:50 p.m. Thursday, June 12

OU Human Resources outlined guidelines for Phase Two of the university's reopening plan, including strictly enforced social distancing and required mask use, in an email. The office also announced that administrative paid leave would end July 2, and employees who are unable to "complete their job duties fully from home," as determined by their supervisors, must return to campus July 6. 

Read more about the email here

 1:54 p.m. Tuesday, June 2

Senior Vice President and Provost Kyle Harper’s office outlined new COVID-19 procedures for OU faculty, according to an email sent to some faculty and adjunct professors and obtained by The Daily. 

Per the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, accommodations will be made for faculty members deemed by their health care provider to have underlying conditions that put them at higher health risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those faculty members are encouraged to confidentially register with the Office of Human Resources. 

Read more about the announcement here.

9:01 a.m. Thursday, May 28

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith responded to a list of questions sent by The OU Daily about the university’s plans for the fall semester. The list of questions was sent at 4 p.m. May 26.  The following is the full list of questions sent to the university.

Referencing the update by the athletics department about returning to campus:

  1. According to the press release from the athletics department, student-athletes will be assessed by medical staff before joining workouts. Will non-athlete students have similar assessments in August? Why or why not?

  1. According to that release, student-athletes will be subject to daily health screenings.  Will non-athletes face similar procedures? Why or why not?

  1. According to that release, students who test positive for COVID-19 will be relocated to a designated housing facility to quarantine. Will the university be doing this for all students who test positive for COVID-19? Why or why not? Where is the designated housing facility? How will it function?

  1. According to that release, staff members working on-campus will be subject to a health screening before they return to work and will then be subject to daily screenings. Will employees outside of the athletic department face similar procedures of both an initial screening and continued screenings? Why or why not?

  1. According to that release, staff members are being provided with self-cleaning kits for their office space and signage to notify cleaning staff when a space has been used. Will employees outside of the athletic department be given kits, signage and similar guidance? Why or why not?

  1. According to that release, "individuals will wear masks provided by the athletics department and comply with social distancing rules." Will student-athletes and athletic employees be required to wear masks? Will non-athletic students and employees be required to wear masks? Why or why not? Lastly, what are the university's "social distancing rules" that students and/or employees will be abiding by?

Student and residential life:

  1. What decisions have been made about The Pride's summer band camp?

  1. Will out-of-state students be required to pay out-of-state tuition for online classes?

  1. Will on-campus work-study programs be affected in the fall? If so, how? Does the university have plans to assist first-year international students, whose visas require only on-campus work?

  1. What dining options will be open in the fall?

  1. How will Cross Village be involved, if at all, in any changes to residential assignments and options?

COVID-19 protocol:

  1. How many student or employee cases of COVID-19 would warrant a move to all-online classes? 

  1. How many student or employee deaths related to COVID-19 would warrant a move to all-online classes?

  1. What protocols will be followed and how will data be collected to inform the community of COVID-19 cases or deaths of students or employees?

  1. Does the university have a written policy of the university's risk model or guidebook on how OU will proceed this fall? If so, The Daily would like a copy.

  1. How will the university comply with ADA requirements in offering high-risk students equal education access?

  1. What legal liability does the university have to its students or employees if they contract COVID-19? If students or employees die from COVID-19? *Editor’s note: This question was first asked May 20 and The OU Daily did not receive an answer from the university.

  1. Will off-campus students who test positive for COVID-19 be required to live in the university's quarantine housing? Why or why not?

  1. Will students and employees be notified if they've shared a class with someone who tested positive for COVID-19? If so, will those students/employees be required to take a COVID-19 test? Why or why not?

The university responded to the 19 questions with this statement:

“The University has convened a number of working groups to plan for a safe return to campus this fall semester, actively assessing the most practical and feasible ways to make that possible. Some of the progress to date includes work around the University’s Clean and Green initiative and the Safe and Resilient Instructional Plan. Throughout the summer as other plans continue to develop, the University will communicate details with the OU community.”

2:39 p.m. Tuesday, May 26: 

OU President Joseph Harroz said in an email Tuesday afternoon that tuition and mandatory fees for the Norman campus will remain flat for the third straight year. He also said that online fees will not apply to classes moved online due to COVID-19. 

Read more about the email here

7:32 a.m. Saturday, May 23:

The OU Daily obtained an email from Vice Provost for Instruction and Student Success Mark Morvant to OU faculty, instructors and deans with the following information:

All class time decisions should be complete by May 26, barring unforeseen issues. The Registrar’s Office is working to alleviate all class conflicts.

Classroom Management will relocate classrooms to maximize social distancing. The university will relocate all classes, “whether scheduled in centrally-(scheduled) or non-centrally scheduled classrooms.” 

The university will not relocate labs and performance-based classes, but may need to cap capacity in these classes depending on COVID-19 recommendations from the University Operations.

Once room relocation nears completion, the Provost Office and deans will create smaller sections of larger classes and blend courses to enable more to be online. The university is monitoring students with a majority of courses online and is switching those schedules to majority in-person. These schedule changes will occur “as the process continues.”

University Operations is “working to obtain sufficient masks” for the fall semester. There is a weekly committee meeting to discuss masks and personal protective equipment. University Operations has “sufficient masks to start the fall at this point,” and is working to ensure the supply continues throughout the semester.

The Fire Marshall and University Operations are also measuring each learning space and classroom to calculate capacity for each area based on seating design, using the 36-square-foot COVID-19 standard and evaluating based on gross and net square footage. Classroom Management will use this distance standard to determine classroom relocations over the coming weeks.

2:10 p.m. Wednesday, May 20: 

OU Human Resources sent an email outlining its new COVID-19 paid-time-off policy for university employees. Read more about it here

1 p.m. Wednesday, May 20:

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith sent an email to The OU Daily with the following information:

"While all OU community members are encouraged to practice efforts that will slow the spread of COVID-19, final decisions relative to required (personal protective equipment) use this fall have not yet been made."

Previously, the university said faculty will be encouraged — but not required — to wear masks, and some faculty may opt for "other protective barriers or distancing if applicable." Morvant also previously said students would be encouraged — but not required — to wear masks.

9:57 a.m. Wednesday, May 20: 

OU Senior Vice President and Provost Kyle Harper gave context for the Safe and Resilient Instructional Plan in an email. Many of the details in the email were already disclosed in Harper’s announcement of the plan Sunday. 

The main piece of new information is that university administrators are continuing to work on necessary changes for the fall semester, including adjusting class schedules. 

Harper said in the email that administrators are “adding thousands of seats in new, smaller, in-person sections, and we are testing the classroom scheduling and room assignments in our software systems.” He said in the coming weeks, students’ class schedules and mixes of in-person and online classes may shift. 

He said he wants to emphasize that classes as they appear in One are not final. 

“I am asking you to bear with us all as we use the early summer to get ready to return in the fall,” Harper said in the email. “For now, enjoy the start of summer, and let the hardworking teams at OU get ready to welcome you back. Once the schedule is in place, we will contact you, and you will have the chance to speak to your advisor if changes are needed.” 

 6:24 p.m. Tuesday, May 19: 

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith sent an email to The OU Daily with the following information: 

  • The university is continuing to develop plans on whether out-of-state students will be required to pay out-of-state tuition for online classes, and administrators will keep students and their families updated of any changes made to the tuition structure. 

  • No additional fees will be charged for courses that have been moved online due to COVID-19. However, courses that were online before the pandemic will continue to carry a fee. 

  • The percentage of students in classes with more than 40 people is unknown, as data is ongoing. 

  • A determination on whether pass/fail grading will continue hasn't been reached by the university yet, but administrators will continue to keep students informed as they develop plans. 

  • The university provost's office is working with large programs, like the Pride of Oklahoma, to develop a conduct of operation plan. 

  • University administrators are planning for the addition of approximately 300 single-occupancy rooms to be available for fall 2020. The single-room options will be spread out among Adams, Couch and Walker towers and David L. Boren Residence Hall. 

  • OU Food Services is "actively developing plans" that include — but are not limited to — eliminating self-serve options, using disposable utensils, maintaining social distancing in lines and seating, and enhanced cleaning procedures and preordering opportunities. 

 3:43 p.m. Tuesday, May 19: 

OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith sent the following clarifications in an email to The OU Daily: 

  • The university is aiming for 75 percent of first-year classes to be in-person. According to Keith, the university is "working on a plan to ensure no students have more than one online course, but a few will have two."

  • All faculty are encouraged to wear masks, but mask-wearing is not required. Some faculty may wear other protective barriers or practice social distancing if applicable.

  • The class schedule will be expanding its time frame. For example, a class that was at 4 p.m. may now start at 7 p.m. Students are encouraged to check their account to track their schedule changes.

 4:00 p.m. Monday, May 18: 

OU announced Sunday it will be using a social distancing plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus this fall. 

Student leaders from the OU Student Government Association met on May 18 with Mark Morvant, vice provost for structure and student success, who answered questions from student representatives. 

The OU Daily obtained the following information from an SGA leaders’ meeting with Mark Morvant, vice provost for instruction and student success: 

  • Class sections of over 40 students will be online, with potential exceptions. Class sections of over 40 students make up 14 percent of all class sections offered.

  • All night classes will be online.

  • Professors and deans in all departments — especially in performance-based courses, STEM labs and graduate classes — will be asked to request in-person classes as needed.

  • The university is aiming for 1000-level classes to be broken up into multiple in-person class sections.

  • The university has not decided whether the add/drop date for classes will be extended.

  • Faculty are being told to be as flexible as possible with attendance policies to make accommodations for sick students.

  • In classrooms, libraries and other areas, there will be signs designating which desks are available for use.

  • The university’s goal is to maintain 36 square feet per student of social distancing.

  • All faculty are encouraged to wear masks, but mask-wearing is not required. Some faculty may wear other protective barriers or practice social distancing if applicable.

  • Students will not be required to wear masks, though mask-wearing is highly recommended.

  • The university has not made a final decision about how high-risk students may be accommodated. 

  • The university has not made a final decision about the upcoming football season and other athletics.

  • The university has not made a final decision about student organizations, and all considerations are preliminary. Departmental clubs, such as language or engineering clubs, may not be affected because those students already share classes. Considerations for SGA Undergraduate Student Congress and other large organizations include Zoom meetings, meetings in a bigger room, in-person representatives with online associateship or holding meetings in one main room and an overflow room.    

This article was updated at 4:26 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, to reflect the university is aiming for 75 percent of first-year classes to be in-person, faculty are encouraged but not required to wear masks, and changes in class schedules also apply to classes earlier than 9 a.m.

It was rearranged chronologically with the newest information at the top at 8:21 p.m. Tuesday, May 19.

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