Fall semester at Carolina will look different from anything in history, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said in a message to campus announcing Carolina’s Roadmap for Fall 2020, which outlines the major areas of change to respond to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the biggest changes: An earlier start and finish to the semester, smaller classes and required community protective equipment.
“I recognize that there is high interest in Carolina’s plans for this fall, and with it, much concern about the safety, health and well-being of our community,” Guskiewicz wrote in a campus email Thursday. “In talking with many of our faculty, students and parents, it’s also clear to me that students learn and grow in different ways and most thrive through the in-person interactions with their faculty and classmates; and through the co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities that a Carolina education provides. The best Carolina experience is one that occurs here on campus where that is all possible.”
The Roadmap was developed with input from the University’s deans, vice chancellors, students, staff and faculty, including Carolina’s infectious disease and public health experts, as well as state and local public health officials, peer institutions and UNC System leadership.
Epidemiologists predict that a second wave of COVID-19 could emerge sometime late fall or early winter. To mitigate the risk of infection to the community, classes will start Aug. 10 and end by Nov. 24. To accommodate the new schedule and minimize the spread of the virus due to travel, fall break will be cancelled.
Some of the initial changes include:
- Faculty and staff will return in a phased approach. Research programs and laboratories will begin ramping up on-campus operations June 1. Employees should initially expect staggered work schedules, alternating schedules, reconfigured workstations, remote work and other accommodations to limit density on campus and maximize safety. More details to follow.
- The first day of classes will be Aug. 10 (professional schools may vary), final exams will be completed by Nov. 24 and students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving holiday. The University will announce plans for New Student Convocation (Aug. 9) and Winter Commencement at a later date. The University will observe Labor Day (Sep. 7) and University Day (Oct. 12), but will eliminate Fall Break (Oct. 15-16) this year.
- Students participating in organized co-curricular activities (e.g. Carolina Athletics/ROTC/UNC Marching Tar Heels) will be invited back to campus in a similar phased approach. More details to follow.
- The campus community is asked to adhere to “community standards” and public health guidelines to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Class sizes will be adjusted to allow for appropriate physical distancing; entering and exiting buildings will occur through clearly marked one-way corridors.
- Time between classes will be extended to allow for necessary physical distancing in and out of buildings, which will impact the number of courses held during typical weekdays. Therefore, students and faculty can expect additional weeknight classes. More details to follow.
- Up to 1,000 new students who are unable to begin residential learning and living in August may participate in a new experience called Carolina Away. This initiative, still in development, will allow them to learn together in digital sections of key courses in the general education curriculum, participate in small group experiences and engage in learning communities that focus on the impact of COVID-19.
- Many other areas are still in the planning phase. The University will launch Carolina’s Roadmap for Fall 2020 website next week that will serve as a repository of information relevant to fall 2020 operations. The website will be updated throughout the summer as more details are available.
The following are more details regarding key areas of academic and campus operations:
Community standards for health and safety
The University is expanding community standards to promote a safe and healthy environment to teach, learn, work and play. In coordination with federal, state, and local guidance, everyone is asked to practice physical distancing, wash their hands often, use hand sanitizer, maintain clean spaces and wear appropriate face coverings/masks (provided by the University for those who need them), among other best practices. Housekeeping staff will continue to clean offices and workspaces according to CDC guidelines and “high touch” areas like doorknobs and bathrooms will be cleaned more frequently. Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms or knowledge of exposure should seek medical care and must not report to work or class. Signage will be posted in campus buildings with these important reminders.
Returning to the workplace
Employees will return to campus in phases with a focus on the health and safety of the community. Decisions about who returns to campus, and when, will be managed centrally, and supervisors will be contacting employees about work arrangements in the coming weeks. The University will work with employees to balance individual needs with those of the school, unit or department. Faculty and staff are asked to abide by the community standards for health and safety.
Returning to laboratory research
While labs related to COVID-19 research have remained fully operational and much research has continued remotely, the University will implement a phased approach to resume other key research activities on campus. Labs and facilities are allowed to reach 50% capacity, but work that can be done remotely should continue off campus initially. Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson and departmental deans will provide further instruction to their respective areas.
Instructional strategy, academic calendar and classroom space
The College of Arts & Sciences, along with its schools and units, are reconfiguring in-person course instruction to include physical distancing provisions. These considerations mean that small classes will meet in larger spaces, and large lecture classes may be split into smaller sections, delivered remotely or consist of a combination of both. The goal of these actions is to offer as much flexibility for students and faculty as possible.
Under guidance from infectious disease and public health experts, the academic calendar has been revised to begin classes a week earlier and conclude before Thanksgiving. Fall break has been eliminated from the schedule not only to finish sooner, but also to minimize possible virus spread associated with travel.
Student experience, sense of belonging and holistic support
To support students as they continue to learn while adjusting to unforeseen changes, the University will facilitate virtual summer programs for new students, encourage student organizations to re-engage, establish a regular check-in system, and provide on-campus and remote advising and counseling sessions. The Student Care Hub will continue to be a place to connect students with academic, wellness and financial resources.
Residence halls will operate at normal capacity — standard double-occupancy — with few exceptions, including one residence hall that will be used to provide temporary housing to residential students who test positive for COVID-19 and a second residence hall that will provide temporary housing for residential students who have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus but do not have a confirmed diagnosis, as recommended by Campus Health or other health authorities. Additionally, some double rooms will be converted to singles and held for residents with immunocompromised conditions as approved by Accessibility Resources and Services and/or Campus Health.
Given the early semester start date of Aug. 10, move in will begin Aug. 3 by pre-scheduled appointment to help achieve physical distancing throughout the move-in process.
Additional information and details will be provided to residential students and student staff by Carolina Housing.
Carolina Dining Services
To help limit density, Lenoir Dining Hall (including Mainstreet on the ground floor) and Chase Dining Hall will be open only to students with a UNC Meal Plan. The University is developing new meal plan options for students and will share details soon.
All other on-campus dining facilities will be open to students, faculty and staff. Seating in dining halls will be reduced to promote physical distancing, and takeout offerings will be expanded in all locations. In addition, mobile food ordering will be installed where practical.
Dining tables and chairs will be sanitized after each use and restrooms will be cleaned hourly. Because of the limited amount of people who can be seated and served with physical distancing measures in place, the University is exploring additional dining options, including food trucks, meal delivery services and dedicated pick-up stations.
Testing, contact tracing and Campus Health/Counseling and Psychological Services
UNC Health, Campus Health, the health department and Carolina’s infectious disease team have testing capabilities when indicated, reflecting state-of-the-art practices to limit virus spread.
Campus Health, CAPS, telehealth services and UNC Hospitals will be open and available to provide outstanding, state-of-the-art care, if needed.
Additional information about guidance for returning to the workplace and additional details about campus operations will follow soon.