The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) unanimously approved Florida A&M University’s plans in anticipation of the return of students to campus this fall.
The plan includes a hybrid offering of online and in-person instruction, social distancing in classrooms, temperature and symptom monitoring and a mandatory facemask policy. Most students on campus will not return after the Thanksgiving break and will complete their coursework for the semester remotely. Fall classes begin on Aug. 24.
“The approval of our reopening plan by the Board of Governors is a testament to the hard work of our team to incorporate comprehensive measures for the safety and health of our faculty, staff and students,” said President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who was one of several FAMU administrators to address the Orlando BOG meeting in person Tuesday.
“We understand the concerns of our stakeholders and will do all we can to continue to provide exceptional experiences for our students and address the well-being of our faculty and staff in light of the pandemic,” Robinson continued. “We will not take their return to our campuses lightly as we execute our reopening strategies.”
Among the highlights of the plan are a phased return, which began June 15 with the Senior Leadership Team and the Financial Services Division, daily temperature testing and monitoring for employees, and mandatory face masks on campus. Plant Operations and Maintenance (POM) staff has scheduled and begun deep cleanings of facilities that coincide with each phase of the return.
While class sizes will be smaller to accommodate social distancing, the University plans to expand the daily and weekend class schedule, which will include a hybrid offering of in-person and online classes.
In August, there will be a phased 10-day move into residence halls instead of the usual two or three-day process. Under the plan, almost 1,900 students will be housed in residence halls.
“We will need the full commitment of all of us in order to maintain an environment conducive to the well-being of students, faculty, staff and those we serve in communities around the state of Florida,” Robinson said Tuesday following the BOG vote.
The University has purchased hand-held thermometers for use throughout the University and campuses. Departments are responsible for conducting daily temperature and symptom checks on-campus for employees and contract staff prior to their entrance into selected high-risk/high-density workplaces.
A comprehensive faculty training and professional development program has been implemented to help ensure that online instruction is offered at a level of high quality and in alignment with best teaching practices.
The plan calls for staff, students and faculty to self-monitor for symptoms and to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing at Bragg Memorial Stadium and other locations around the state. Students are also urged to limit their exposure before returning to campus, said Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer Rica Calhoun, chair of the Operations Continuity Taskforce.
Employees are required to use face coverings when at work around individuals or in common spaces. Each employee must undergo training before their return to campus, when they will receive one disposable and two reusable cloth face masks, and two personal size containers of hand sanitizers that can be refilled at stations around the campus. Each office suite will be provided with one-gallon containers of hand sanitizer.
“We’re very confident in the plan,” said Calhoun, who delivered the plan at the BOG meeting. “We have spent many hours reviewing and making sure we are considering all the possible scenarios so that we are in a position to welcome back students this fall with their safety as a top priority.”