BY GRANT ROWLEY
Earlier this month, an email was sent to Fort Hays State University students and staff relating to campus mask and social distancing mandates which are set to be lifted June 1st and remain lifted into the 2021 fall semester. With FHSU lifting the mandates for students and staff, there may be some concern for students coming back after the summer.
Scott Cason, chief communications officer at FHSU, said the school is prepared to return to COVID-19 protocols should the need arise.
“I think throughout our planning process we have always kept an eye on always being able to pivot back to protocols and procedures that we instituted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cason said. “So we would be prepared to do the same. We did our planning last summer to be ready to come back in the fall when there’s enough safety protocols in place. We have been able to stay open and we kept to our academic calendar all year.”
Regarding whether or not students are going to have to test when coming back to school, Cason said they have not gone into detail about that level of planning, but said he does not anticipate any mandatory testing for returning to campus for students and staff.
Another concern some may have is if students are going to have to take the vaccine before returning to campus.
“I think we have been consistent in our stance to encourage all members of our campus community to take advantage in getting the vaccine,” Cason said. “We don’t have plans at this time to make it mandatory. There are some universities and colleges that are making it mandatory but that is not our plan at this time.“
Cason said the summer will be the most important time to fully decide steps for the next school year, saying if students want to get the vaccine FHSU is planning to be a vaccine provider for students.
“We are working towards becoming a vaccine provider. We are not quite there yet,” he said, “[We had] arranged that on Tuesday we were going to be doing an on-campus vaccination clinic in the memorial union, but we were using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that the FDA and CDC has asked to put a halt to.”
Cason said locations such as Dillons, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart are vaccination providers in town.
“Last Saturday in Hays, Hays-Med did a drive-up vaccination clinic in their parking lot,” Cason said. “So the vaccine is ready and fully available in the community for everyone from age 16 and up.”
Cason said if there are some students that still feel uncomfortable returning back to campus without having to social distance or wear masks that there are options.
“We have a robust online program that there would be options along those lines. Individually I think students can work out arrangements with academic advisors in creating their academic plan for the fall,” Cason said. “No one will be forced to return to campus, that is not what we do. So I think we do enjoy a rich number of options for our course delivery here.”
Regarding FHSU Athletics, Cason said with thanks to the testing of the athletes’ health we can assume campus activities will return to normal.
“They anticipated a full return to training and competing in events. One of the real success stories is the rigorous testing we’ve done in the athletics department has kept our athletes in the field and on the court,” Cason said. “We are planning to return to full-on-campus events and we will be talking over the summer to determine if it will return completely like we’ve had in the past or will there need to be some health and safety protocols.”