CHAMPAIGN – As the state moves through Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say it’s unlikely that full in-person classes will return in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, a task force in charge of planning out strategies for a return to campus is laying out plans for a modified reopening of classes.
In a report draft released last week, the task force says the goal is to inch toward face-to-face learning as much as possible, since in-person instruction provides students with vital interactions and opportunities, and remote learning is even more difficult for those who lack access to technology, quiet spaces or support networks.
But due to public health concerns, the U of I is considering a modified approach, which would involve a mix of in-person and remote learning.
“The health and safety of the community must be the most important consideration in any decision about Fall 2020 instruction,” Andreas Cangellaris, UIUC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, said in a statement.
“‘Normal operations’ are highly unlikely to be a viable option for the fall given the current understanding of the virus and the guidance provided to us from our state’s officials about the anticipated state of the pandemic in Illinois in the fall.”
The draft breaks down possibilities for the fall semester into two options.
In Scenario A, there would be a modified return to class with social distancing measures, like limiting classroom capacity or minimizing students’ return to campus after traveling during breaks. The plan also suggests offering some courses on Saturdays to help create a socially distanced schedule for students.
To aid in social distancing, some classes may be offered during off-peak times, and large courses with more than 50 people would be held online. The university would also consider having students finish the semester remotely after fall break, to avoid any potential transmission of the virus during travel.
Scenario B would entail full remote learning. Officials say it’s possible the university may transition between the two throughout the semester, depending on the risk of a possible outbreak.
The U of I must meet all requirements for Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois plan before it can move forward with its proposals.
The campus will also have to maintain public health guidelines, such as having COVID-19 testing and contact tracing methods in place, as well as requiring students, faculty and employees to wear face masks.
Find the full report draft here.