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Florida Universities May Be Learning Outdoors, Mandating Face Masks

The Florida Board of Governors announced Monday state universities will be opening campuses in fall after the coronavirus pandemic abruptly closed campuses in March.

UCF announced its plans for a hybrid scenario of courses to welcome students back on Thursday but will not present it to the board until June.

Knight News obtained the most recent draft of the Board of Governors “blueprint” for reopening — the finalized guidelines will be presented at a meeting on May 28. 

The Board of Governors — the governing board of the 12 state universities in Florida — is providing the critical elements to state universities reopening this fall, according to the draft version of its guidelines.

The governing board of Florida’s state schools acknowledged traditional campus experience will be different and said each school will have to learn to coexist with COVID-19, the document reads.

“As all universities continue to work to enhance health and safety precautions, academic pursuits, social interactions, extracurricular activities, and athletics will occur in new and unique formats that will still be positive and rewarding experiences,” the document states. 

Academic Program Delivery 

The draft guidelines state universities should explore new and creative ways to use technology to deliver classes in a variety of ways, including teaching and learning outdoors.

Board of Governors spokeswoman Renee Fargason said all available square footage that could be used as a “classroom” to help with social distancing is being evaluated.

“For example, maybe outside under a tree? Or a dining facility that is available during non-dining times, and is appropriate to have a meeting or a small class with tables spread far apart,” Fargason said in a Friday email. “We are going to get creative!”

Screenshot of the Florida Board of Governors draft guidelines obtained by Knight News. 

“Class sizes and classroom densities, as well as outdoor and non-traditional spaces, should be evaluated in consideration of the current CDC, state, and local social distancing guidelines,” the draft document reads. 

The Board of Governors encourages state universities to consider varied course scheduling and calendar options to accommodate alternative instructional delivery formats.

Reasonable alternatives should be made available for faculty and students who are unable to participate in available class delivery formats. The guidelines state each university’s plan should acknowledge that the local community will likely look different by the time fall term starts. 

A Healthy Campus Environment

The blueprint states the use of face coverings and hand sanitizers should be addressed in each university plan.

“All students and employees should be educated and trained in the requirements and expectations for the new health and safety procedures and the consequences for non-compliance of these university policies,” the guidelines read.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local social distancing guidelines in place at the time of each university’s fall opening should be implemented in all campus facilities and should include procedures for enforcement for all constituents, the draft guidelines read.

Screenshot of the Florida Board of Governors draft guidelines obtained by Knight News. 

Athletic programs within the State University System — which includes universities in various athletic conferences — should work with its respective conference to develop the necessary protocols, according to documents.

“While recognizing that the national and regional athletic conferences will develop plans with their member institutions for intercollegiate competition, each university plan should provide specific protections and protocols for participation in athletic competition by their students, staffs, and spectators that comply with CDC guidelines and state policies regarding COVID-19,” the document reads. 

Screenshot of the Florida Board of Governors draft guidelines obtained by Knight News. 

The guidelines state each school should consider the current and projected health environment as it plans for the gradual and measured approval of student extracurricular activities —  including Greek organization operations and functions, student organizations, clubs, intramural sports, and social gatherings.

A Healthy Community Environment 

The Board of Governors’ draft guidelines indicate each university plan should emphasize the health and safety of its campus as shared responsibility.

“… The surrounding university community should accept a shared responsibility with the university to promote the health of the campus and its surrounding community,” the document states.

Screenshot of the Florida Board of Governors draft guidelines obtained by Knight News. 

The guidelines state individuals should be expected to accept personal responsibility for his or her actions by following all CDC recommendations and university policies. 

“Each university should establish and publicize consequences for non-compliance of all relevant national, state, and university policies,” the draft guidelines read. 

COVID-19 Virus Testing

The Board of Governors states COVID-19 testing is needed at every state university in its draft guidelines. 

Each university should outline questions and how to address who in the campus community should be tested, including when and how often, and a survey or screening methodology should be incorporated to identify and prioritize individuals who warrant testing. 

Screenshot of the Florida Board of Governors draft guidelines obtained by Knight News. 

The testing plan should include each university’s plan on how to deal with individuals coming to the campus from state, national, and international geographic areas with significant community transmission, according to documents.

The draft guidelines state each university should have a process to allow healthcare providers to rapidly respond to identified COVID-19 “hot spots” on campus.

Contact Tracing and Surveillance

Contact tracing is a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  COVID-19 positive patients work with public health officials to inform individuals who may have had close contact with the infectious individual.

Screenshot of the Florida Board of Governors draft guidelines obtained by Knight News. 

Each university must identify suitable spaces for COVID-19 positive students that reside in on-campus housing or facilities to recover until they are no longer infectious, the draft document reads.

The document states resources should be made available to provide care, counseling, and other services to these individuals and include the ability for quarantined students to continue their studies.

This is a developing story.
Check back for updates.

The post Florida Universities May Be Learning Outdoors, Mandating Face Masks appeared first on KnightNews.com.

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