University officials discuss possible remote start for spring semester

University officials are discussing a potential remote start to the semester given the current local COVID-19 situation and the emergence of a more transmissible strain in the U.S. (File Photo by Bailey Britton | Collegian Media Group)

University officials are discussing a possible remote start to the spring semester in light of recent spikes in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Riley County. There is no deadline for the decision, but Provost Charles Taber said in an email a decision will be made soon.

In K-State Today on Tuesday, President Richard Myers said various planning groups are creating contingency plans for the semester.

“Our intention is to assess the data and decide how to approach the coming term for all facets of the university,” Myers wrote. “Please know we are closely monitoring the situation and will keep you apprised.”

Taber said these discussions began Monday morning “in light of the latest presentation of pandemic data.”

“We have been continuously evaluating COVID conditions since last March and are always considering options for our instructional mode given those conditions,” Taber said.

Dr. Kyle Goerl, Lafene Health Center’s medical director, said Kansas State continues to look at all indicators for university operations. However, there are some new things to consider.

“Some of the more pressing [reasons] right now are a relatively slow rollout of the vaccination program, which has been slow across the country, but especially slow in our state,” Goerl said. “And then, when you look at, for example, the new mutated virus that is estimated at somewhere around 50 percent more transmissible than some of the original strains.”

Goerl said all the factors are interrelated and are viewed as a whole since students interact with the community at-large. Community spread, hospitalizations and increased case numbers are concerning, Goerl said.

Taber said the university is likely to either begin the spring semester as planned with hybrid, distance and in-person instruction or begin the semester remotely on Jan. 25. Taber said the university does not foresee the entire semester continuing remotely.

K-State remains in phase three of the reopening plan until a vaccine is widely available, local infections slow or decrease and health care facilities can manage the potential cases.

Goerl said two-thirds of Lafene’s staff received the vaccine so far.

“We’ve been kind of systematically working through our staff and have had pretty high compliance and acceptance rates for getting the vaccine which is very encouraging,” Goerl said.

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.