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What DSU students can expect in the fall

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Delaware State University students will return to campus for the fall 2020 semester under a plan that includes social distancing, continuous testing and a mix of in-person and online classes. President Tony Allen introduced it in a town hall July 7.

The nonprofit Testing For America is advising the university and helping it with testing.

“The key to safe university operations in the ‘new normal’ is robust testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine,” Allen said. “That’s why we are so pleased to have Testing for America as our advisor. As the university develops toward a weekly COVID-19 testing capacity, we will have the unique ability to test our entire campus community throughout the semester.”

The semester will start Aug. 25 and end Dec. 11 as planned, and students are encouraged to stay on campus during Thanksgiving break, said Provost Saundra DeLauder.

Allen announced that homecoming will be moved to the weekend of April 23 and fall commencement will be postponed until the spring.

“That gives us enough time to be responsible in the fall and prepare for a great time in the spring,” he said about homecoming.

For the full plan, read here.

Testing

Volunteers from Testing for America, who are leaders across healthcare, science and business, have been working closely with the university on the Dover campus for the past week helping to formalize testing plans.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer contributed $100,000 in CARES Act funding to help the university partner with TFA.

All students and staff will be tested before returning to campus, and routine testing will continue after that.

A handful of aviation students will be the first to return, arriving this week to catch up on flight time lost during the last half of the spring semester. This group will help fine-tune the university’s testing while following Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for COVID-19 safety in the cockpit.

Athletes will return about two weeks later. This way, the university’s testing program can ramp up in stages before the majority of students come back in late August. The university estimates that 3,000 employees and students will be on campus in a given week.

Once everyone is back, there will be routine testing. The frequency of testing can be adjusted based on the prevalence of positive cases, said Blythe Adamson, infectious disease epidemiologist and TFA representative.

Since many people 18 to 25 years old don’t show symptoms, Adamson said this testing will help prevent further spread.

She applauded the university’s plan to isolate anyone who tests positive while still providing secure housing, food and remote coursework. “Delaware State is using all of the best practices that are recommended,” she said.

Sports

Adamson said it’s important that student athletes set an example by social distancing and wearing masks. If they quarantine until they receive negative test results, they can be confident when going onto the field, she said.

“One of the challenges that we need these student athletes to step up to is leadership in their behaviors off the field,” she said. “The places where these students are most likely going to be infected are hanging out together [on and off campus].”

Director of Athletics Scott Gines said all athletes will need a negative test result before coming back to campus.

Footballers return July 23, followed by women’s soccer and volleyball. In the meantime, athletes can expect virtual team meetings.

Courses

The hybrid structure means about 85% of courses will be taught remotely, DeLauder said. Most will meet face-to-face at least once or twice a week, whether that’s in-person or via video conference.

“The delivery is in a remote environment but the professor will be giving you activities to engage,” DeLauder said.

While courses that were originally designed to be online have a built-in tuition difference, hybrid classes will not result in a tuition decrease. Some studies that require field experience, such as aviation, hospitality and tourism and nursing, will have an in-person element.

Research programs are expected to continue with capacity limits, masks and social distancing in labs. “When students do attend classes in person, they will be in classrooms set up for social distancing, with the class sizes limited,” DeLauder said.

Faculty who can work remotely do not need to return to campus, Allen said. “We’re going to be thoughtful about who we bring back on campus,” he said.

Living on campus

LaKresha Moultrie, who has headed the university’s COVID-19 task force since early March, said campus will look and feel different in the fall. “The return in fall represents a campus-wide rethinking of our entire operation for the long term,” she said.

Faculty, staff, students, and all visitors will complete a daily health screening. Masks will be required in places like common areas, residence halls, labs and workspaces. Increased signage around campus and in the dining areas will remind people to follow guidelines and social distance. Physical barriers will help people social distance in areas of high traffic or where it’s difficult to separate.

Gatherings will be limited, and any public events must be approved. The number of people in public areas will be monitored, hand sanitizer will be available nearly everywhere and public areas will be cleaned frequently. Dining halls will have options for sit-down meals and take-out.

Vice President for Student Affairs Stacy Downing said the university can now house about 75% of the students who normally stay in the residence halls. That number went up with more testing available. “We’re excited that we are able to house more students than we had originally anticipated,” Downing said.

Several rooms will be set aside for quarantining students who test positive. Most international students will be taking their courses virtually due to travel restrictions.

Downing said students should pay attention to their emails in the next couple weeks for more information about rooming and move-in. Some people will be living alone, but bigger suites can house multiple students safely, she said.

“Our goal is to make sure you have the resources, the education you need, prior to coming to campus to make sure that we have a successful fall,” she said.