Universities stay the course, stay nimble as they ready for spring semester

The Ohio Union at Ohio State University. Photo from Google Maps.

As spring semester planning approaches, Ohio’s universities largely seem to be staying with their phased pandemic plans or previous plans, but testing in some areas is changing with COVID-19 numbers still a concern.

Despite Portage County’s designation as a “red” county on the state’s Public Health Advisory System and categorization as a high case incidence county, Kent State University plans to stay the course with its phased education plan.

“Campuses may adjust operations when the state of Ohio COVID Risk Level status for their county is changed, including the addition of restrictions when the county risk level is raised, or the return to previous operations when the county risk level is lowered,” the university posted to its COVID-19 web page.

Now on Phase 4 of the plan, in-person and remote instruction is set to continue through Nov. 20, and fall break was eliminated as part of the plan. Classes begin again on Nov. 30, through remote instruction only.

Visitors to Kent State residence halls are still limited to on-campus students.

Ohio University announced it would allow the return of students to campus in January, while regional campuses will maintain their current hybrid model.

Spring semester will start a week later and will not include a spring break “to discourage travel to and from campus,” according to President Duane Nellis.

“Any students who prefer to continue learning remotely will have the option to do so,” Nellis said in a statement to the university.

In lieu of spring break, single-day “mini-breaks” will occur during the course of the semester.

Anyone living on-campus is required to be tested weekly, or risk being in violation of their housing agreement, according to the university. Off-campus students, however, are only required to be tested bi-weekly.

The fall semester already saw three residence halls on the Athens campus put into isolation because of potential COVID-19 spread.

Residence halls will be maxed at double occupancy, and “a select number of single rooms available upon request,” Nellis wrote.

Spring commencement has yet to be decided.

Ohio State University hasn’t noted any changes to their plans for spring semester, but have said student surveillance testing will be transitioned to an on-campus lab, according to a letter to students from Vice President for Student Life, Melissa Shivers, and Senior CP for Research, Morley O. Stone.

“The change will allow the university to test and process results more quickly and affordably, and your on-site experience at the Jesse Owens North testing facility will be more efficient because less saliva will be required,” Shivers and Stone wrote in the letter.

Stone and Shivers also said the scheduling and results delivery tool will change to the medical software MyChart.

Wright State University has made no announcement of changes to their schedule, which includes about 70% remote learning in the current semester. But Interim Provost Douglas Leaman announced an expanded screening program “to include additional asymptomatic individuals,” in a recent statement to the university community.

“The pilot testing program will be conducted over the remainder of the Fall Semester with a targeted group of students and employees in order to refine the program for use during the Spring Semester,” Leaman wrote.

Testing will be administered at a bus shelter next to the Wright State Physicians Health Center, where rapid antigen tests are set to be conducted. Results will take about 15 minutes, Leaman wrote.

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