Colleges will return in the fall both in-person and online

Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College(KFYR-TV)
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 8:46 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - After the pandemic hit the state, the North Dakota University System moved 11,000 college classes online in fewer than three weeks.

Room and board fees were refunded and many previous requirements were waived, like those for the ACT and SAT tests.

But now, NDUS is looking towards the future.

Across the country, schools are wondering whether their students can return to campus in the fall. While the back-to-school season may look different this year, the state university system is working to ensure students have the option to physically return to campus.

NDUS Smart Restart Task Force members said a hybrid educational model would be the safest way to bring students back to campus. This allows students to meet face-to-face, but offers an option for online class as well.

“If a student gets quarantined, they can go back to their dorm. They can go back, if they live in the area, to their home and still take the classes. Or when they’re recovered and feel better they can walk back into the classroom and that’s what we refer to as this “hybrid” or this “hyflex,” said North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

University leaders said face mask requirements, social distancing, heightened hygiene practices, and physical changes, like decreasing classroom sizes and how meals are served, will be essential for reopening.

“Over the summer we’ve had a limited number of students on campus. And as we see infections happen, we can certainly test out these procedures and identify holes in those processes and procedures before the mass of students, faculty, and staff return in August,” said University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost.

But contact tracing experts say robust testing will be vital in keeping students safe. University leaders plan on having 34 testing events throughout the state to test students before they come to campus.

“We’ve been able to pull the data that says how many students live in Bismarck that are going to one of the eleven institutions, so if we have an event in Bismarck we have a better sense, a better planning aid to know how many students potentially could show up,” said contact tracing administrator Vern Dosch.

Dosch said they’ll also have recurrent testing during the school year and testing for students who travel outside of the state or have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person.

NDUS leaders said CARES Act funding will cover testing costs through the end of the year, but they’re unsure how those costs will be covered after 2020.

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