BY CORIE LYNN
As COVID-19 outbreaks wax and wane, the question Fort Hays State University students continually ask is whether the semester schedules will be altered. After the sudden closure of the university the previous spring, none would be surprised by another similar decision.
With Thanksgiving Break looming, the students’ question became more pressing until the university announced it would indeed move forward with the established calendar.
Students can thus expect to return to campus through the end of the fall semester and into the Spring 2021 semester. According to FHSU President Dr. Tisa Mason, this decision hinged on the campus’s ability to follow health, safety and mitigation protocols.
“The university has consistently said we do not intend to alter our schedule unless circumstances dictate otherwise,” Mason said. “Those circumstances have a lot to do with our ability to manage our campus.”
So far, the university has felt these measures, ranging from cleaning procedures in classrooms to isolating infected students off-campus, have worked.
According to FHSU Chief Communications Officer Scott Cason, students living on campus should not expect changes to Residential Life, even after returning to campus from the Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks.
This includes maintaining the current cleaning protocols and routines, though, much like the university as a whole, Residential Life is prepared to change as needed.
“I think the most proactive thing all of us can do as we head off to break, while at home and when returning to campus,” Cason said “is to maintain the health and safety practices that have allowed us to keep campus open this fall.”
As Cason explained, the course of the pandemic is dependent on individual decisions to mitigate its spread. Because of this, day-to-day life and decisions are dynamic, forcing communities to adapt from one day to the next.
While the plan is to move into the 2020-2021 calendar years as planned, Mason acknowledges the pandemic might force another schedule change.
“Information about the pandemic changes constantly. Decisions made today – may or may not be the same decisions we would make in several months,” she said.
According to Mason, this daily monitoring is done with the help of an advisory board consisting of Hays entities such as the CEO of HaysMed, FHSU General Counsel and the Chair of the Critical Incident Policy Group.
In addition, she remains in contact with the Hays City Commissioners.
Because of this range of input, Mason stated that “[the University’s] planning and decision-making on the scheduling front reflects input we have received from a number of campus and community voices.”
Following the university’s decision to move forward with the established calendar, Mason explained much of this information in an email to FHSU faculty and staff.
It was here that she also explained that the goal is to provide quality classes and activities to students, but that they would do so while continuing to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[M]y commitment to you is that should our local situation indicate that we are not able to manage our campus protocols, or should local, state, or national trends or directives force us to reconsider maintaining our academic calendar for the remainder of the year, we will be prepared to do so without hesitation,” Mason said.
As students prepare to leave campus for the holidays, they should look forward to returning for finals and the spring semester.
But, as the university is currently doing, they should continue to monitor the daily shifts of the COVID-19 pandemic and be prepared to once again transition online should the situation require it.