UNC schools outline campus return plans

Several campuses in the UNC system are revealing their plans for students to return to school, though they are light on detail and tentative.

Both UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T said Monday that they plan to welcome students back to campus in August for the fall semester. Both schools will eliminate the traditional fall break.

UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam.

“This plan reduces the need for people to leave campus, disperse widely, and then return in the middle of the semester,” UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam  told students in a message Monday. Limiting movement is key for managing virus spread. It also enables us to maintain the necessary instructional days required to meet our academic standards and best serve our students.”

Both campuses also plan to eliminate Reading Day, hold final exams online and end their fall semester at Thanksgiving. They are tentatively scheduling in-person commencement ceremonies for December but both schools say that and many of the details of the fall calendar will depend on developments with the COVID-19 virus, which health experts say will likely have new spikes during the traditional cold and flu season.

“While we will be prepared to resume in-person instruction this fall, we are taking important steps to significantly reduce the number of students on campus in late November and December, to help manage community spread of infection,” said N.C. A&T Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Beryl C. McEwen in a message to the campus community. “As the largest historically black university in the nation, we appreciate the special challenge that we face to protect our sizable student body, and we will be working throughout the summer to make sure we are ready.”

The UNC Board of Governors meets Wednesday. When and how each of the campuses may return to full-time in-person instruction will be discussed.

Some higher education experts have warned that any return to normal operations for the fall semester is too soon and that universities are largely ill-equipped to provide the kind of social distancing necessary to prevent further community spread of the virus.

“In addition to the calendar changes, we are currently assessing all of the other implications of COVID-19 on our operations,” Gilliam told students in his message. “We will maintain maximum flexibility in our planning, knowing that conditions may evolve over the summer.”

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