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Appalachian State Grappling With How to Handle Classroom Return this Fall for Students and Faculty

By Nathan Ham

It appears that colleges and universities in the UNC System are waiting alongside public K-12 schools for a final decision on how to handle a return to the classroom for the fall semester of 2020.

On Friday, Appalachian State University Chancellor Dr. Sheri Everts released an update about the current academic vision for how App State will open up with COVID-19 cases continuing to pile up across the country.

“We are considering all possible scenarios and confirming as many specifics as possible while also awaiting further guidance from Governor Cooper and the UNC System. Governor Cooper’s announcement expected next week about the next steps of his phased reopening plan will be an important indicator for us. I appreciate the collegiality of our faculty and staff, and the patience of our students, as we all work toward the best solution for continuing instruction in the fall. I know all of us want the safest possible learning environment and I appreciate those who are working on this,” Everts said in last week’s update.

As of now, UNC System schools are preparing for face-to-face courses that will be held in classrooms with six feet of distance between seats, hybrid classes with both online and face-to-face classroom time, and classes that are online-only. According to Appalachian State, class schedules will be updated on July 20.

The inside of the classroom will look different as well. Furniture will be organized to both decrease seating capacity and allow for six feet of distance between each student in the class. With the decrease in capacity, other areas on campus such as the Plemmons Student Union meeting rooms, conference rooms, and library meeting space will be used as classroom space. Students and faculty will be wearing a face covering, with certain health exceptions.

As students return to on-campus housing, the move-in process will be different than years past when everyone moved in on the same weekend on campus. Now, students will be given appointment times to move into residence halls and there will not be campus volunteers taking part in the move-in process as in years past.

“The Project Management and Implementation Team continues its important work coordinating preparations for fall semester and beyond,” said Everts. “We have difficult decisions and work ahead of us — and hard questions to answer. Thank you to everyone in the Appalachian Community for continuing to give of your time and efforts as we move forward.”