USF begins Phase II preparations for campus reopening this Fall

President Steve Currall announced the University of South Florida's move into a modified Phase II reopening plan in a message to USF faculty and staff on August 7. 

On August 24, USF will welcome students back to campus, offering a combination of face-to-face, online instruction, and hybrid learning options, as well as a number of other modifications to on-campus operations that are guided by the USF COVID-19 Task Force led by USF College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen. 

"Throughout our planning -- and guided by our world-class experts from USF Health in fields of epidemiology, medicine and public health -- we have pledged to make well-informed, evidence-based decisions with public health as the key consideration. Our plan is intentionally designed to be flexible and adaptable as we determine how to gradually resume additional on-campus activities," Currall says.

Options such as remote and virtual learning went into effect early in the pandemic, when students and faculty transitioned to online coursework instead of returning to campus after spring break. Beginning this fall, every person who comes onto a USF campus will be required to complete a daily symptom check using a digital platform, maintain social distancing, and wear a face mask at all times. Some points of service including libraries, recreational facilities, and student centers across the three USF campuses may open with limited hours, capacities, and activities.

Additionally, the university has enacted enhanced safety precautions that include capacity limits in classrooms and elevators, installation of plexiglass shields, and thousands of signs throughout USF campuses with reminders to wear face coverings and to practice social distancing and good hygiene.

"We have invested significant time, energy, and resources to offer flexible solutions that allow students to pursue their academic goals without disruption, faculty to teach and continue their research, and staff to work in a healthy environment to support our academic mission.

As we have said previously, students will not be required to take face-to-face courses this semester. However, we know that some prefer to learn in person, depending on the field of study (e.g., performing arts or in a laboratory setting). We want to offer those opportunities with safety measures in place," Currall says.

COVID-19 Task Force operational details state that no more than 50% of employees should be on campus at any one time, and per Phase II instructions, all USF employees who are able to continue working remotely are encouraged to do so. All USF meetings and events will also continue to be held virtually, except for limited exceptions reviewed in advance by the Task Force. For students returning to campus housing, residence halls will reopen with new health and safety policies, and all travel restrictions remain in place following CDC, U.S., and State of Florida guidelines.

Students, faculty, and staff who are in a high-risk category or live with those at risk will receive priority to attend and teach courses online, and the university will provide additional sanitation supplies for in-person instructional spaces. 

A Faculty Advice and Guidance for Fall 2020 guide was published in July and updated on Aug. 4, outlining best practices for USF faculty and graduate teaching assistants returning to work this fall. 

"Guided by intellectual rigor and relevance, it is important that, together, we meet the high expectations of our students as they seek a world-class education delivered through a variety of instructional platforms and learning experiences," writes Provost and Executive Vice President, Ralph C. Wilcox.

Guidance and campus operations will continue to evolve in response to COVID-19 trends during the ongoing pandemic. 

The Faculty Advice and Guidance guide dictates that all instructional staff should be prepared to transition to online instruction as the default class delivery platform "at any point in the coming semester should conditions dictate, and no later than Thanksgiving."

"The success of our plan relies on USF’s culture of caring and a shared sense of responsibility to sustain the well-being of our community, even in our daily lives when we’re not on campus. Anyone who feels sick should stay home. To be clear: There will be zero tolerance and serious consequences for individuals who don’t comply with our expected behaviors and who jeopardize the health of others. We’re all in this together," Currall writes in his Phase II address to faculty and staff.

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Jessi Smith (she/they) is a freelance writer who is passionate about sustainability, community building, and the power of the arts and transformative storytelling. A fourth-generation Floridian, Jessi received her B.A. in Art History and English from Florida International University and began reporting for 83 Degrees in 2009. When she isn't writing, Jessi enjoys taking her deaf rescue dog on outdoors adventures, unearthing treasures in backroads antiques and thrift shops, D.I.Y. upcycling projects, and Florida-friendly gardening.