Ohio University Announces Reopening Plan For Spring

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Ohio University announced Thursday that all first- and second-year students who want to live on campus in the spring can do so.

Spring semester will start a week later than originally planned and spring break has been canceled to discourage travel to and from campus because of concerns over the coronavirus.

Instead of spring break, students will get a day off in February, March and April. The last day of classes remains unchanged as does spring commencement, although it hasn’t been decided yet what that commencement ceremony will look like. Fall commencement is being conducted virtually.

All students will be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. Students who live in the residence halls will be tested weekly and students living off-campus will be required to take a biweekly test.

Most students will continue to take a combination of in-person and online classes, and many students will still take a majority of their classes online just as they’ve been doing in the fall. The university plans to increase the number of undergraduate courses taught synchronously to encourage more student interaction.

Students will still have the option to take all their classes online depending on availability and any specific requirements for their major.

The course schedule will be posted online Nov. 6, and for each class it will indicate how the class will be taught.

Details of the spring reopening plan were presented to the university’s board of trustees Thursday.

University officials told trustees they expect that about 30 percent of students will opt to stay home.

Most of those who choose to live on campus will be housed in double rooms, with a few single rooms available upon request.

Dr. Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations at Ohio University

Gillian Ice, a professor of social medicine who is heading up the university’s coronavirus response, said the university has been able to ramp up testing to the point where she and other officials are comfortable bringing more students back to campus.

Ice also noted that there’s been a steady decline in the positivity rate over the past week or so, which is encouraging. The positivity rate is a ratio of the number of people who test positive relative to the total number of people tested.

However, Ice cautioned that how successfully the university can bring more students back to campus without driving up COVID-19 infections “is largely dependent on the behavior of individuals. If people don’t take precautions it severely limits our ability to open campus more fully.”

The university plans to keep five residence halls offline to be used for isolation and quarantining for students who are exposed to the coronavirus or test positive for COVID-19.

Ice said that during the fall semester some students have chosen to go home for isolation or quarantine instead of the spaces on campus designated for this. This is concerning, she said, because they could end up spreading the virus to friends and family, but the university cannot force them to stay.

Ice said she is also concerned about the flu, given that people who get the flu may exhibit symptoms similar to COVID-19. She said the university has taken steps to make sure that flu vaccinations are available for all students and staff, and there will be a campaign to encourage people to get a flu shot.