XENIA — Cedarville and Central State universities are forging ahead with plans for in-person classes this fall after hearing guidelines from the state.
The two Greene County schools had previously announced their intentions to be open for the fall semester and were waiting for specific details from Gov. Mike DeWine before finalizing plans. The guidance in the “Responsible RestartOhio” document was released during DeWine’s press conference Thursday afternoon.
Among the requirements:
— Campuses must comply with all relevant state and CDC guidelines regarding facilities, sanitation health monitoring, facial coverings, residence halls, classrooms, dining facilities, retail operations, general office environments, campus visitors, study abroad and international travel, and recreational facilities.
— All campus employees must wear a facial covering unless prohibited by law or regulation or one of several other exemptions apply.
— Minimum six-foot physical distancing must be preserved to the greatest extent feasible.
— Campuses must employ the most updated and evidence-based approaches to provide a safe environment for faculty, staff, and students.
The requirements didn’t catch either president off guard.
“Chancellor Randy Gardner has held a weekly conference call with the presidents of Ohio’s independent colleges,” said CU President Dr. Thomas White. “The Governor’s Office also sought input from presidents of independent colleges on the challenges and best practices for opening up this fall. The excellent collaboration and communication have resulted in a good working relationship. We have been making plans for restarting the next academic year in the way that he outlined as we have also consulted with many great on campus health experts.”
CSU President Dr. Jack Thomas said the goal is to create “a safe and secure work environment for our faculty, staff and our students.”
“We’re preparing in terms of the PPE making sure that we have hand sanitizing as well as masks,” he said. “And then we are looking at our residence halls in terms of whether some will be single and some will be have the partitions to divide and the classroom and making sure that we have the spacing and the distancing.”
The state also recommends that colleges develop a plan for an appropriately sized campus quarantine space/isolation area in the event it is needed. Despite annual increases in enrollment, Cedarville is prepared to designate a quarantine area.
“The administration has identified one residence hall and a large house just off campus for students who develop symptoms of COVID-19,” White said. “We have plans to provide meals and for students to continue with classes through flexible formats.”
All higher education institutions must be prepared to utilize public health interventions, contact tracing, and COVID-19 testing consistent with federal, state, and local public health guidelines. Cedarville isn’t requiring everyone to be tested upon return to campus.
“Cedarville is working to provide optional testing to faculty, staff and students as the fall begins but will not require mandatory testing in line with CDC recommendations,” White said. “Cedarville will also have testing capabilities with quick results for any student who shows symptoms during the fall semester. This will help us better respond to any spread of COVID-19 on campus.”
Thomas said CSU is also leaning on the institutional response team that was appointed to help create the reopening plan.
“We will be following what we hear from the CDC as well as from the state and health care industries to decide how we’re going to move forward,” Thomas said.
DeWine also announced that he and leaders of the Ohio General Assembly are requesting that the Ohio Controlling Board approve an initial request made Monday to allocate $200 million for higher education from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and the CARES Act.
“We are appreciative to Gov. DeWine for making these funds available to Cedarville University,” White said. “These funds will be used to keep our campus community safe for students, faculty and staff, and at the same time, allow our students to prepare for their life’s calling of kingdom impact.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.