While the CDC has not finalized their guidelines for reopening schools for the Fall 2020 semester, the New York Times discovered an unreleased document in which the organization reviews the safety protocol of a handful of institutions of higher education. How are the reviewed schools planning on confronting the coronavirus on campus this fall?
The CDC reviewed colleges and universities’ reopening plans across the spectrum of higher ed. In their selection, they included Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), community colleges, both public and private universities, and tribal institutions. Schools’ reopening plans generally followed pre-existing CDC COVID-19 guidelines, including requiring cloth face coverings, conducting regular health screening, and enhancing cleaning and disinfection. Some schools are planning on installing floor signs to direct foot traffic and hanging posters that promote safe practices. Some will re-route pathways across campus and within buildings to enact social distancing practices. Many plan to modify or close communal spaces and reduce maximum capacity for classrooms. And nearly all schools will offer a hybrid of in-person and online learning.
The CDC also highlighted the ways in which schools are going beyond organization recommendations. They note that the Community College of Baltimore will prop open interior doors to eliminate the need to interact with high touch surfaces; the college also plans to designate stairwells as either “up” or “down” to minimize close contact. Temple University is creating a brand-new COVID-19 Testing and Treatment facility and partnering with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to develop a specialized contact-tracing unit. And Southern Methodist University will allow students and staff to opt-in to digital alerts about positive coronavirus cases on campus.
While there are more similarities than differences among the plans for reopening these institutions of higher education, the CDC noted two significant areas of divergence. The first, mandatory testing, was only present in the opening plans for private universities. And the second, compressed fall semesters, were planned only for residential universities and not mentioned for community colleges or tribal institutions.
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