University Unveils Preliminary Reopening Plans for Fall 2020


Elizabeth Maline

On June 12, President Nathan Hatch sent an email to the Wake Forest community outlining a loose plan for returning to campus for the upcoming fall semester. The University will announce its full plans on how it intends to reopen by June 30. 

Most notably, Hatch announced that on-campus undergraduate courses will begin on August 26 and run through November 24. The start date is two days later than was originally scheduled, and the last day of in-person classes is several weeks earlier than would have occurred. Rather than return to campus following Thanksgiving break, students and faculty will finish the semester online, which will include the remote administration of final exams from November 30 to December 18. Students will not return to campus until the start of the spring semester. 

In recognizing that not all students may be able to return to campus for in-person classes, the university is preparing a hybrid learning plan of in-person classes, online classes and a mix of both. An updated course schedule with new offerings will be finalized by July 15, after which students will be able to adjust their schedules with their advisers if they choose to do so.

Hatch also stated that students and faculty will be asked to limit travel outside the local area in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus within the university community. In accordance with this policy, he stated that the university will likely remove fall break from the calendar. 

The realities of the coronavirus pandemic will impact every aspect of campus operations, from classroom learning to housing to dining. Hatch stated that the university is working closely with public health experts to devise several scenarios for offering essential services to students. 

With regard to on-campus housing, the university expects to reach a finalized plan by June 30, which could involve temporary alterations to the university’s three-year undergraduate residency requirement. Unlike course registration, which occurred in March despite uncertainty surrounding the fall semester, students intending to live on campus never registered for housing as normally takes place in the spring. 

The email also stated that the university will offer a “revised and flexible set of dining options” to comply with social distancing guidelines. Take-away and delivery services will be available and will take the place of more traditional, self-serve buffet-style meals, which will likely not be possible. The university has some experience providing these dining services to students who remained on campus in the spring while classes continued online. 

While the university acknowledges this semester will come with many changes to normal activity, it exhibits confidence that it can provide an engaging and fulfilling learning environment to students. It anticipates that the Wellbeing Center will be open with the implementation of state guidelines, and it hopes to conduct many outdoor events, which will allow for more people to gather. 

At this time, the university does not plan to conduct mass testing of individuals for COVID-19 as they arrive on campus, as the university claims national public health guidelines “no longer support that as an effective strategy.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released guidance on reopening higher education institutions in late May, and nowhere in that report did it explicitly recommend mass testing of individuals as they arrive for the semester. However, Student Health Services will have the capability to test for the virus. Individuals will likely be expected to wear face masks, maintain social distancing, self-report daily symptoms and stay home if they feel sick.

The university has also established a new website, which will provide updates surrounding the planning process as it relates to the fall semester. Viewers will also be able to submit ideas and suggestions to help the university plan for the semester.