University of Alaska hopes to have in-person classes for fall of 2020

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 9:20 PM AKDT
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The University of Alaska plans to have in-person classes in the fall, UA President Jim Johnsen said at a press conference Wednesday. The institution’s reopening process is based on a five-phase plan the university system has created.

The phases are ranked from the most restrictive Phase A to the least restrictive Phase E. UA is at the first stage now but hopes to move to Phase C by the start of the fall semester. A move to Phase C means universities would hold limited in-person classes, allow on-campus housing, permit events and enable employees to return to campus for work.

With this move would come increased safety measures. Johnsen said the university will start tracking its own cases of COVID-19 and work to have quarantine and isolation locations within university housing.

While Johnsen does hope to get students back on campus, that campus may look very different with plexiglass shields, thermal scans and limitations on space usage.

“If we’re able to operate in Phase C, our students and employees can expect as many in-person classes as is safely possible and some still via distance,” Johnsen said at the press conference.

Colleges around the world are struggling to decide how to teach students in the coming academic year. Some universities, like the University of Cambridge, have already made the decision to suspend mass lectures for the next year while others, like the University of Notre Dame, have chosen to bring students to campus two weeks earlier with the intent of ending the semester before Thanksgiving.

For the University of Alaska, campuses may be able to move into less restrictive phases at different rates. University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said she expects to move to Phase B soon.

“I think we’ll see a few more faces on campus but very limited under controlled, safe environment, people wearing masks, lots of hand sanitizers and some restrictions for where you can come in and how you can come in. But we will have some face-to-face operations in the fall,” Sandeen said in a video update to the UAA community on Wednesday.

The University of Alaska regularly offers online classes for credit, and Johnsen said there will be no change in tuition for online classes that would normally have been offered in person.

“Our online courses are very high quality and so we stand by the quality,” Johnsen said.

UA did reimburse students who had to prematurely move out of student housing, but Johnsen said since the UA tuition rates are lower than many peer institutions, there will not be further reductions.

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