Ellis County reopens, FHSU waits

STORY BY CORIE LYNN

The Fort Hays State University campus officially closed in March, sending home staff and students as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, states across the nation – Kansas included – began shut-downs consisting of business and social regulations.

However, as of June 1, Ellis County has lifted all restrictions. This decision comes only a week before the state, as per Gov. Laura Kelly’s Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas, was to further remove restrictions.

Though situated in Ellis County, FHSU is not immediately reopening with the surrounding area, and faculty are still discussing what Fall 2021 will look like for the university.

“We are in constant contact with our Ellis County partners, and our summer reopening plans have been shared with them,” said Dr. Jill Arensdorf, FHSU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I would anticipate that our Ellis County partners will be consulted on our fall planning as well.”

Like Kansas, FHSU is following a phased reopening plan, which will bring employees back to campus gradually and allow only limited public access to university buildings. FHSU reopening is anticipated to take place between June 1 and Aug. 1, with discussion and evaluation of the reopening’s progress during this time.

Because of the university’s reopening plan, Ellis County’s lifting of restrictions has little effect on on-campus entities.

“Residential Life remained open for those on-campus residents who had no other housing options. We still have students living on campus,” said FHSU Chief Communications Officer Scott Cason. “The closing and opening of Ellis County did not impact the Residential Life operations, but when the Access shuttle route from campus around town was stopped by the city/county as part of their plan, it had an impact on some of our students.”

As the Fall semester approaches, however, Cason assures students that staff is available to answer questions and will continue to keep students updated on what reopening means for campus life.

“We will be communicating with all of our fall residents throughout the summer about our plans for welcoming our residents back to campus,” he said.

According to Cason, Residential Life will continue to follow the guidance of university administration, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ellis County Emergency Management.

While Ellis County reopening is a step toward normalcy in Hays, FHSU will continue according to its set guidelines and, by early July, hopes to share more information on what an open campus will look like.

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