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How do OU's plans for fall semester amid COVID-19 compare to CDC guidelines, other universities?

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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.

As COVID-19 rates spike across the country, higher education institutes are grappling with how to safely reopen amid a global pandemic.

OU announced its Safe and Resilient Instructional plan to reopen this fall. The Daily compared OU's plan with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for higher education institutes and other Big 12 peer institutions.

The CDC guidelines for higher education institutions provide a structure for schools to follow based on the lowest, moderate and highest risk of viral spread.

According to the webpage, “these considerations are meant to supplement — not replace — any state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations with which IHEs (institutions of higher education) must comply.”

The page characterizes the lowest risk of viral spread as virtual-only learning options and closing residence halls “where feasible.” 

Moderate risk of viral spread is characterized by small in-person classes where social distancing is practiced and residence halls open at limited capacities with common areas remaining closed. 

The highest risk of viral spread is characterized by full-sized in-person classes and residence halls at full capacity with open common areas. 

The page suggests several practices to reduce the spread of the virus. These include self-isolation when necessary, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, cloth facial coverings, adequate supply of things like soap and hand sanitizer, and signs and messages posted publicly to encourage these practices. 

The page also suggests faculty, staff members and students at a higher risk of contracting the virus and suffering from severe illness should be given options to limit their exposure, such as working or learning remotely.

University of Oklahoma

Class schedules have been adjusted to reflect changes made to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Classes with over 40 people enrolled have either been moved online or split up into multiple, smaller sections. Other classes deemed unnecessary to hold in-person have also been moved online. 

A 30-minute window will be implemented between classes rather than the usual 10-minute window.

The university said its goal is to hold 75 percent of first-year classes in person.

Masks will be required by all individuals on campus unless they are alone in a private office.

Total enrollment: 28,546

Texas Christian University

As reported by TCU360, TCU is giving students and instructors the option of 100 percent online instruction. Students have the option to enroll in all online courses and instructors can request to teach the entire semester remotely. The university also announced that masks will be required by all individuals on campus unless in a private office. 

Total enrollment: 10,918 

University of Texas

As reported by The Daily Texan, the university announced its plan to resume remote learning after the end of Thanksgiving break with students finishing the semester online. 

Students will have the option to complete their semester fully online but the university is offering in-person, hybrid and online-only formats. 

Masks will be required by all individuals inside campus buildings and are encouraged when on campus outside. 

Total enrollment: 51,832

Baylor University

Baylor’s Office of the President announced June 25 that in-person classes will still be held for the fall semester, but the academic calendar will be shortened. 

Classes will be held on Labor Day and through fall break, and Thanksgiving break will be shortened. All final exams will be held online in early December, and fall commencement has been canceled. 

Masks will also be required for every individual on campus. 

There is no indication of an effort to move classes online. 

Total enrollment: 17,217

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech is planning to use a combination of in-person, hybrid and online-only instructional methods in the fall. As reported by The Daily Toreador, over two-thirds of classes will have at least part face-to-face instruction. 

Masks will be required on campus. 

Total enrollment: 38,209

Kansas State University

Kansas State announced it will conduct in-person, hybrid and online-only classes in the fall. The fall semester will start and end a week early with students completing the last two weeks after Thanksgiving break online. 

Total enrollment: 22,221

University of Kansas

The university announced the fall semester will start as planned, but students will complete the last two weeks after Thanksgiving break online. 

Students are encouraged to leave campus for the semester, and the spring semester will not begin until February. To accommodate this extended winter break, there will not be a Labor Day, fall or spring break. 

Certain courses like labs and general education requirements for freshmen students are being prioritized to be held in person. Other courses will be offered in in-person, hybrid and online formats. 

Masks are required by all individuals while on campus and within six feet of another person.

Total enrollments: 27,690 

Oklahoma State University

The O’Colly reported OSU will begin the fall semester in person and finish the semester after Thanksgiving break online. The university is planning for in-person classes, and no announcements have been made in regard to the availability of hybrid or online-only classes. 

Masks are required to enter all OSU facilities and all students will receive a washable cloth face mask. 

Total enrollment: 24,649

Iowa State University

ISU announced large lecture-based courses will be held online with smaller discussion sections available, smaller classes will be offered in person or with a hybrid format and lab courses will be held in person. 

Masks will be required in areas where “physical distancing is not possible.”

Total enrollment: 34,992

University of West Virginia

WVU laid out its plan to begin fall classes as scheduled. However, fall break will be canceled and students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break, with the last two weeks of the semester being held online. 

WVU also announced their spring semester will begin as scheduled but spring break will be canceled. 

Masks will be required on campus by all individuals. Students, faculty and staff will be provided with a kit including a cloth mask, disposable masks, hand sanitizer and a “key touch tool.” 

Total enrollment: 26,864

senior news reporter

Jordan Hayden is a journalism junior and a senior news reporter at The Daily. Previously she served as the fall 2018 and spring 2019 assistant engagement editor.

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