Administrators at South Florida’s colleges and universities are trying to plan for the fall semester even as the COVID-19 pandemic grips the area.
“Of course we’re concerned and we’re paying very close attention to it and we’re having daily conversations with the Department of Health,” said Dr. Harry Moon, the chief operating officer of Nova Southeastern University.
He could be speaking for every administrator. NBC 6 spoke to officials at FIU, the University of Miami, Barry University, NSU, Miami-Dade College, and Broward College. All of them said their institutions would be offering students the three options of face-to-face classroom instruction, online learning from home, or a hybrid of both models.
“We are looking at three scenarios this fall and it all depends on the current COVID situation at that point,” said Juan Mendieta, director of communications at Miami-Dade College.
Flexibility is the key to their plans, being able to react to whatever the pandemic throws at them.
“We really believe we can adapt to any variety of circumstances that present because we have to,” said Mike Allen, president of Barry University.
All of these institutions are using physical distancing measures in classrooms and on campus, masks are required for everyone, plexiglas panels are being installed to put transmission barriers between people, hand sanitizer is everywhere, and at some colleges, checkpoints are being set up at which people must have their temperature checked to enter buildings.
“And the logic of the steps we’re taking are the best way we know today of being able to offer instruction in as safe an environment as we possibly can,” said Dr. Moon.
At Barry, Allen said he’s determined to keep the dormitories open for students who feel safer on campus than they do at home during the pandemic.
“A number of them really need us, and they need us for things like internet connectivity, food security and just general safety and well-being,” Allen said.
The local colleges are doing whatever they can to prevent their campuses from becoming virus hotspots, and some of them are actually preparing for an influx of students.
“Typically when the economy goes down our enrollment goes up, we’re also seeing a lot of scenarios where parents were sending kids out of state or to institutions out of town, a lot of those parents I think are gonna opt to keep their kids safe at home,” Mendieta said.
At least for a year, taking classes nearby instead of going away to school might be the safe option.