BY GRANT ROWLEY
Some colleges and universities in Kansas are not having spring break this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Fort Hays State University has stayed true to plans for spring break. FHSU is the only Kansas Board of Regents university to do so.
Emporia State, Pittsburg State, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State were not planning on having spring break, but are still mixing on-campus and online classes. Kansas State is also transitioning to full-online classes during their normal spring break week and continuing online for the remainder of the semester.
Scott Cason, chief communications officer at FHSU, said the university has a Critical Incident Policy Group (CIPG) that meets twice a week to look at a number of areas related to COVID-19 on campus.
“We look at the progression of the virus on campus, in our state, national and global, and we sort of form decisions, policies and procedures on what we see on the data on those lines,” Cason said.
After collecting information on tests and cases for the area, Cason said the group looked at how other schools handled the fall break in order to determine how FHSU would proceed with offering a spring break.
“We were looking at other schools that decided to leave for fall break and to finish online, and we decided, no, the data shows that we are OK. We can safely go on break and keep on our normal schedule and come back,” Cason said. “Based on our success with our data from the fall break and Christmas break, we decided we were going to be OK sticking with our original academic plan.”
Cason said CIPG wanted to stay on course with the academic calendar as much as possible.
While Fort Hays is having spring break, it also decided to continue the mix of on-campus, online and hybrid learning.
Cason said President Tisa Mason and her leadership has been at the forefront since the pandemic hit the country more than a year ago.
“I think President Mason, under her leadership, she’s been committed and she’s let us know that the executive leadership level and with our CIPG group that she wanted to make this as normal an academic school year as possible….
….Our goal is to always be as much in-person as possible because it is just part of that overall college experience.”
Fort Hays began spring break this week. Students returning to campus the week after are not without concern. According to Cason, he and CIPG have had worries about COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.
“I have concerns every day and as a member of that CIPG group, I see the data every day and I am the one who uploads it on how we are doing on testing and cases,” Cason said. “So we have always been looking if we are going to get hit or not.”
With the university keeping an eye on tests and COVID numbers, it is hoping the campus can remain open. That will allow students to continue as is for the school year, with safety in mind.
Cason said FHSU is determined to keep the campus open to students while also wanting to protect them. Since the fall semester, Mason has been wanting students to return along with opening up areas so students will not miss out on the college experience.
“It has always been her vision to bring us back as soon as possible and has led on that front like a president should,” Cason said.
FHSU has announced it plans a full return to in-person classes for the fall semester — barring any unforeseen circumstances beyond its control.
“We are spending the next several months to make sure that we can make sure we can return in the fall,” Cason said, referring to information the university has collected following Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks — along with the upcoming information from spring break. “So we are in the process now of redoing our policies for resident and campus life.”