Brenau University students, faculty and staff are easing into a new normal this fall semester.
Classes, residential living and schedules have been altered to lessen the potential of COVID-19 infection among its campuses in Gainesville, Augusta, Fairburn, Norcross and Jacksonville, Florida.
Anne Skleder, president of Brenau, said the university is welcoming 560 new undergraduates and 300 new graduate students this semester.
“We’re excited for another year,” she said. “It’s going to be a great year but a different year.”
Returning to class
Brenau will begin fall classes at all locations Monday, Aug. 24.
Skleder said people can expect a combination of face-to-face, remote and hybrid courses.
To reduce traveling among those who plan to take on-campus classes, Brenau has condensed its fall schedule. Instead of taking off for Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7 and Fall Break, Thursday Oct. 15 and Friday, Oct. 16, students will continue classes until the end of the semester on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
“We want to get through to Thanksgiving,” Skleder said. “There will be no face-to-face after Thanksgiving.”
Skleder said those who will attend courses in person can expect to see lower class sizes. For example, a room that typically has 25-30 people, will be reduced to around 10 with 20 or so attending via Zoom. Faculty also have the option of facilitating courses via Zoom while their students look on from the classroom. All lecture classes will not take place this semester.
To keep students and faculty safe, Skleder said everyone will be required to wear masks and desks will remain at a proper distance from others.
Those in the university's health care programs who can’t avoid interacting closely with people, will be equipped with full personal protection equipment, including face shields.
The university will provide masks, face shields and hand sanitizer to those who need it.
Living on campus and new protocols
All residential students will move on an assigned staggered timeline between Sunday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 23.
“There will be a lowered amount of students (residential),” Skelder said. “We’re spreading out more. Should we need to quarantine students, there will be plenty of room to do that.”
Since March, Skleder said Brenau’s Scenario Planning Group, COVID-19 Task Force and Leadership Team have studied the pandemic carefully, including health care trends and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for institutions of higher education.
“We are monitoring multiple variables constantly,” Skleder said. “This is an environment that’s changeable.”
Some of the protocols the teams have helped establish include mask requirements for all, daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces and to-go services in cafeterias. Signs will soon be in place on campus to remind people to social distance and to direct the flow of traffic.
Students, faculty and staff will be required to undergo a daily screening checklist before entering their respective classes and workplaces. The form includes six questions, one of which prompts people to check their temperature to certify it’s less than 100.3 degrees.
Skleder said Brenau will offer testing for students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. The university has procedures in place for students to isolate themselves if they are awaiting test results or have tested positive.
“We’re looking forward to folks understanding that this is the new way of doing things, to enable us to continue to educate, but to do so in as safe a way as possible,” Skleder said.