A safe return to campus for fall semester is top of mind for nearly everyone at CU and it was top of the agenda at yesterday’s Board of Regents meeting.
The chancellors of all four campuses updated the regents on the extensive plans and protocols in place to welcome students, faculty and staff back for what will be a very different fall semester due to the pandemic. Additionally, the chancellors addressed employee concerns, which include an increased need for childcare and scheduling flexibility.
Emphasizing health and safety, the detailed fall return plans are posted on the campus websites:
- CU Boulder: https://www.colorado.edu/roadmap/
- UCCS: https://returnto.uccs.edu/
- CU Denver: https://www.ucdenver.edu/safe-return-to-campus-fall-2020
- CU Anschutz: https://www.cuanschutz.edu/coronavirus/return-to-campus
“I think it’s important to note this isn’t an exact science,” Board of Regents Chair Glen Gallegos said. “I’m proud to be associated with such hardworking people who are working to open our university so that students can continue their education.”
CU President Mark Kennedy echoed this sentiment. “People up and down the organization have invested great effort to make sure we’re ready to come back for fall. There are a lot of extra expenses associated with these efforts that we are not passing onto our students,” he said.
Noting that plans for reopening CU Boulder “have continued to evolve as we’ve gained experience and capabilities,” Chancellor Phil DiStefano kicked off the presentations joined by CU Boulder Associate Professor Matt McQueen, who serves as director of the Epidemiology Laboratory and is part of the team advising the chancellor on COVID-19 safety. Citing close collaboration with the greater Boulder community, McQueen outlined the four pillars on which the campus’ fall plan is built: testing, response, environmental controls and behavior. First year students begin moving to campus next week and must provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or undergo testing before moving in. “We know we’ll have positive tests as we return to campus,” DiStefano said. “In fact, because our testing capabilities exceed those of the community, we will be discovering asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers. And that’s a good thing because it will allow us to prevent the spread of disease.”
DiStefano went on to cite the different factors he and other campus leaders will closely monitor – including infection rates, hospital capacities and campus density – to determine the best course of action as the semester unfolds. CU Boulder will make this data publicly available via a newly-developed dashboard on the campus website to foster transparency.
CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks noted that students have already begun returning to campus for the fall semester. “It’s a different experience than we’re used to, but it’s still a very exciting time, especially for first-time undergraduates and graduate students who are starting new programs,” she said. Acknowledging the challenges associated with directing behavior among CU Denver students – most of whom commute to campus – Marks described the public health reminders and notices that are posted on campus and will be regularly communicated to students. Additionally, students will undergo a rigorous check-in process facilitated by student ambassadors that includes daily health attestations. All CU Denver buildings will have single entry and exit points and masks will be required at all times. Efforts to de-densify the campus – Marks said no more than 500 CU Denver students are expected to be on campus at any given time this fall – include limiting the number of chairs and desks in classrooms, limiting occupancy in the Lynx Crossing residence hall to one student per room, and providing student services in-person as well as virtually.
Marks also cited plans to assist employees and students with school-aged children whose needs may include childcare, tutoring and other learning and developmental assistance.
“Protect the Pride” is the public health campaign at UCCS, where fall classes begin on Aug. 24 and students start returning next week. “We’re actively promoting the three w’s: Wearing masks, washing hands and watching the distance,” UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy said. “My intention is to strictly enforce these protocols, but my hope is we don’t have to since we have a phenomenal sense of community and a lot of compassion for each other at UCCS.” Daily health surveys, masks and plexiglass barriers are some of the protective measures being taken, and scripts will be provided to faculty conducting classroom instruction to deal with potential public health guidance violations. Additionally, Reddy highlighted the campus’ partnership with an external vendor to assist with testing and contact tracing efforts. Like the other campuses, Reddy said UCCS leadership will closely monitor various sources of information – including federal, state and county mandates – should the need to develop contingency plans arise.
Reddy noted that employees who are concerned about returning to campus will be able to work with their supervisors and human resources staff to develop accommodations to the extent possible.
As the outlier of the campuses – researchers returned in mid-May and students started returning in June – CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman noted that, like the other campuses, CU Anschutz has very strict protocols in place. “Two months into this, those protocols are largely being met. We’re seeing very good compliance with mask wearing, social distancing and the cleaning processes in place,” he said. Elliman went on to describe the campus’s internal testing and contact tracing capacity, which he anticipates increasing to up to 3,000 COVID-19 tests per week by Oct. 1 if necessary. Elliman said that since June 2, there have been 26 confirmed COVID-19 cases among faculty, students and staff but that none were believed to have been acquired on campus.
Elliman cited childcare as being a major issue campus-wide and said they’re exploring several solutions to be of more assistance to faculty, staff and students with school-aged children.