It’s still too soon to tell exactly what the fall semester at Kansas State will look like, but the university plans to return to campus in some capacity.
“We anticipate based on what we’ve already seen … if we continue to do the right things in this state and in this county, that we will be able to have face to face classes on campus,” President Richard Myers said.
The University of Kansas, Washburn and Wichita State have already announced some variation of a plan to open in the fall.
When the time does come to begin reopening, Myers said K-State will need to be careful to follow Gov. Laura Kelly’s guidelines as well as other social distancing protocols laid out by the Riley County Health Department. Testing and contact-tracing infrastructure would need to be more widespread and new case numbers in the state of Kansas and the area would need to decrease.
“That depends on how all of us behave in terms of taking the right precautions and stopping the spread of virus,” Myers said. “If we’re going to start in fall, we’re gonna have to do really well with that.”
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For now, the plan will have to be flexible — the latest models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predict that Kansas could “safely” begin relaxing social distancing guidelines by late-June.
Even then, social distancing in some capacity will be required. Provost Charles Taber said there will need to be decreased class size and additional measures to protect individuals that are considered high risk if they were to get COVID-19.
It’s likely, Taber said, the fall semester will have some kind of in-person and online hybrid setup.
“I don’t think I’m going out on a limb at all in saying that,” Taber said. “Our intention is to be back for face to face classes. And … that’s what I expect to be the case.”
Determining which courses and which parts of the “educational mission really need to be done face-to-face” or those that can be done in a more flexible setup are being determined, Taber said.
Right now, the university is scenario planning.
“So we’re looking we’re trying to anticipate anything that could happen,” Taber said. “We’re really looking at all of them and trying to decide what mix of these options would be best for the students of this university.”
While nothing is “set in stone,” Taber said, the university will continue to be guided by the principles it established for this “unprecedented health crisis.”
The principles — which were formally announced during the Virtual Student Town Hall about a month ago — include an emphasis on the health and safety of the student body, a focus on the university’s land grant mission to provide a valuable education and maintaining the financial viability of the university.
“It’s like going into fall was a toolbox,” Myers said. “We can pull out the tools as we need them.”
More information about the phased reopening of campus and specific trigger points to move forward is expected in the next week or so.
“It may not turn out the way we anticipated or we hope,” Myers said. “Some of this we have control of some we have no control of it, and we have to be very flexible.”