USM announces plans for mix of in-person and remote instruction for fall semester

The University System of Maryland announced Friday that its 12 institutions — including the University of Maryland — will hold a combination of both in-person and remote classes this fall.

Over the next two weeks, each institution will provide an overview of its initial planning for the fall, according to a statement from the system Friday. Each institution’s guidelines will follow recommendations from the Return to Campus Advisory Group — a cohort of university-based leaders that has assisted universities in developing their plans.

“I’m grateful for the thoughtful guidance the advisory group continues to provide,” system chancellor Jay Perman said in the statement. “The group’s insights have been critical as we approach the fall 2020 semester in the safest and most practical way possible.”

Most students will begin instruction in mid-to-late August, but some institutions may end in-person learning by Thanksgiving, according to the statement. Other decisions left up to institutions include the number of students who will live on campus, the number of those who will learn remotely and “whether, when, and how” athletic programming may resume.

All institutions are taking steps to limit the density of students in campus housing, and most universities will prohibit or reduce the use of communal spaces in dorms, according to the statement. Similar precautions will be taken in dining facilities, with some universities offering grab-and-go meals.

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The classes that may be offered in-person include studio, laboratory and clinical classes, the statement read. Some lecture courses will be taught remotely, but there could be sections of the same course that are taught both in-person and online.

The system is also developing plans for the resumption of research operations that will include “a rigorous set of protocols” that must be maintained, according to the statement. Each university will also implement measures to ensure health and safety, including the ability to obtain personal protective equipment, secure coronavirus testing equipment and isolate residential students who contract the virus.

Still, each university’s plan will be catered to its specific needs, according to the statement. The plans will be flexible enough to change if needed.

“The pandemic presents obstacles being felt throughout higher education,” Board of Regents chair Linda Gooden said in the statement. “Our universities are committed to offering the best academic experience possible for our students, while maintaining health and well-being throughout the system.”

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