Thursday, July 23, 2020 / by Ken Couture
Nevada’s public colleges and universities have created reopening plans for fall semester — many of which include a mix of in-person and online learning.
The Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents will hear presentations Thursday about each school’s reopening plan but isn’t slated to take action. A 278-page document — which includes a plan that each of NSHE’s eight schools developed — is included in meeting materials online.
With rising COVID-19 case numbers in Southern Nevada, school officials are emphasizing their fall plans are rapidly evolving and subject to change.
“It’s such an ever-changing environment, especially in Southern Nevada right now,” said Patty Charlton, vice president and provost for the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus.
CSN, a community college with three main campuses in the Las Vegas Valley, has contingency plans for the fall semester, including if greater restrictions are imposed, she said.
At UNLV, university spokesman Tony Allen said in a Monday email to the Review-Journal: “This is all included in the plan, but I’d just again stress that the health, safety, and well-being of the university community remain our top priority and guide all of our decisions.”
The COVID-19 situation is “very fluid” and plans could be modified, he said.
Nevada college and university campuses were closed in mid-March and distance education continued for the rest of the school year. In early May, NSHE announced schools could resume in-person classes in the fall and on a limited basis for the second half of the summer.
Similarities among plans
There are a number of similarities among fall reopening plans for UNLV, Nevada State College and CSN.
For the fall semester — which begins in late August — most are planning to offer in-person, hybrid (with in-person and remote components) and online classes.
There won’t be any in-person classes with more than 50 participants or more than half a classroom’s maximum occupancy — whichever is more restrictive — assuming current statewide gathering size restrictions are still in effect.
Some schools, including CSN and UNLV, are aiming for about a 50-50 mix of in-person versus online instruction. But at Nevada State College in Henderson, the school plans to have 70 percent of its classes online and 30 percent in a hybrid format, President Bart Patterson said Monday.
For NSC’s hybrid classes, half of the students in any given class will attend in person some days and will trade off with those attending remotely.
For lab classes — such as biology and chemistry labs — the lecture portion will be online, but the lab component will be in person.
It’s important to have some in-person component to classes, Patterson said, noting that not all students learn well in an online format. College employees are also preparing computer lab and study spaces to make sure students who need it have a quiet place where they can attend classes virtually.
As part of their reopening plans, UNLV, CSN and NSC all mention asking those coming onto campus to use a COVID-19 screening tool daily.
At CSN, it will be an honor system, Charlton said Monday, noting people won’t be barred from coming to campus if they don’t take the assessment.
A couple of academic programs — including allied health and emergency medical services — will require temperature checks, she said.
At UNLV, the RebelSAFE mobile app includes a COVID-19 screening tool. Students and employees will be required to take the assessment through either the app or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s SelfChecker and take their temperature daily before coming to campus, according to the plan.
In a section about COVID-19 testing, UNLV says it won’t perform widespread testing before employees and students return to campus.
“In addition, it is not feasible to obtain testing supplies for the entire campus,” according to the plan. “However, Athletics is engaging in widespread testing and residence hall staff is encouraging residents to get tested.”
NSC isn’t requiring COVID-19 testing or temperature checks, Patterson said, but noted that employees and students will be expected to use daily self-assessments to gauge whether they’re experiencing symptoms or were exposed to the virus.
UNLV, NSC and CSN’s reopening plans all mandate the use of face coverings while on campus — in compliance with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s statewide order — and that includes indoor and outdoor spaces.
UNLV’s plannotes: “The University’s reopening plan is expected to occur in three distinct steps, with a possible retreat at any time if public health conditions require more remote operations.”
UNLV has started the process of resuming in-person campus operations this summer, according to the plan. Step one began June 1. Step two is expected to begin on or around Aug. 3.
“In Step Two, the University will call back additional personnel whose jobs are carried out from campus and are needed to support on-site activity,” according to the plan.
Step three is expected to begin in late August. “By this point, we expect most staff members to have returned to campus unless alternate arrangements were made with their managers,” according to the plan.
For the third summer term — which began July 13 and runs through Aug. 14 — 35 class sections are scheduled for face-to-face instruction and all others (1,614 sections) are being offered online, according to the plan.
For the fall semester, the first consideration about which classes to offer online was “vulnerable faculty,” followed by course sections with more than 50 participants, according to the plan.
In early May, faculty members and instructors were able to request to teach one or more classes — or their entire course load — remotely for summer or fall semesters.
Nevada State College
Under its reopening plan, NSC has a phased-in return to campus for employees: June 15 for executive-level employees and administrative staff as needed, and beginning July 1 for all other 12-month employees.
Campus buildings were reopened for public business purposes “in a limited way” on July 1, the plan states.
Employees who are a member of a high-risk group — or are caring for a family member in that category — can request to work from home, according to the plan.
During the initial return to campus process, remote work arrangements will continue to be required, the plan states. And the college is encouraging its departments to use partial staffing on alternating days or weeks, and stagger reporting and departure times by at least 30 minutes.
For fall semester, “child care is a huge issue for our faculty and staff …” and will depend on what the Clark County School District and other kindergarten through 12th grade schools decide with reopening, Patterson said Monday.
The school district announced Monday it’s recommending a distance learning start to the school year. But a blended learning model — where students attend class in-person two days a week and online three days a week — is still an option.
Depending on what CCSD decides, NSC will look at ways to allow employees to work from home or on alternating schedules “so we don’t create a child care crisis for employees,” Patterson said.
With only about 20 percent of students expected on campus on any given day this fall, “in-person staffing will not need to be as great as if we had 100 percent of students,” he said.
College of Southern Nevada
CSN staff who can telecommute should continue to do so, according to the college’s reopening plan. Employees who will return to campus will be provided with a 10-working day notice.
CSN is aiming to have about a 50-50 mix of in-person and online classes this fall, Charlton said. By comparison, the college has typically offered between 30 and 35 percent of its classes online in years past.
In May, CSN resumed limited on-campus instruction for programs such as emergency medical technology and health sciences.
“During summer 2020 additional select laboratories will return to campus, for those programs that cannot be delivered in a remote environment,” according to the plan. That includes some career and technical education programs.
Charlton said Monday: “It’s kind of difficult to learn how to change oil in a vehicle online.”
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