Governor Pete Ricketts on Monday hosted leaders of Nebraska’s state colleges and independent institutions of higher education to discuss plans for the safe return of students to campuses this fall.
Dr. Paul Turman, Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, overviewed the protocols in place at Chadron State, Peru State, and Wayne State. Dr. Darrin Good, President of Nebraska Wesleyan University, spoke on behalf of the 13 member institutions of the Council of Independent Nebraska Colleges Foundation to provide details on their approach to safely resuming in-class instruction.
Governor Ricketts said the Nebraska State College System, and our private colleges and universities, have been actively preparing to welcome students to campus for the fall semester. They’ve taken a number of steps to mitigate the risk of coronavirus to students, faculty, and staff. Physically distancing classrooms and re-arranging other physical spaces to allow for more room between persons. Adopting screening protocols to detect symptomatic individuals. Making PPE readily available and ensuring their academic community has timely access to testing. And designing multiple learning pathways to provide flexibility for how instruction takes place. Ricketts says colleges and universities have also stepped up communications efforts to convey their coronavirus guidelines to students, parents, teachers, faculty, coaches, administrators, and others.
Dr. Turman said in June, the state colleges notified students that we would be proceeding with in-person classes in the fall of 2020. They have compressed their academic calendar to limit the number of contact days and interactions students and faculty will have. All of their classes designated as in-person when students registered in the spring will take place in that fashion this fall. Turman says they have asked all faculty to take attendance so that we can make connections to ensure the health of students who’ve been absent. He says they not going to penalize students for missing class. They want them to know they can isolate and avoid social interaction if they have symptoms. Turman said they have had a very small number of students who have requested to continue their studies online; in some cases, as few as 5-10 students on an entire campus. He calls that a testament to students’ desire to come back to class. Overall, Turman said he is extremely optimistic—as are their college presidents—that they are going to do the right things, put students in a safe environment, and have a very successful fall semester.
Dr. Good said over with over 35,000 students, over 30% of the bachelor’s degrees earned in Nebraska are given out by one of their 13 institutions. He says as private colleges and universities, they have come together and worked in unity to address issues related to the pandemic. Turman credited local health departments with being incredibly generous with their time in advising their institutions. Turman said their campuses are enriched by the communities in which they’re located. Not only do they feel it’s essential to protect their students, faculty, and staff, but they take their responsibility to protect their communities very seriously as well.