KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee system is planning to welcome students back to each of its campuses for the fall semester.
Back in March, UT switched all in-person classes online in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a new announcement on Wednesday, the system said is is planning for a safe return to campuses in the fall and will do everything possible to protect the health of students, faculty and staff.
UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman told WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel this is a big day. She also made it clear there is a lot of work being done to determine the best and safest ways to return in Fall 2020.
“How do we deal with the dorms? How do classrooms look? What part of it may need to be online, what part of it can still be done face to face while we social distance? How do we have a safe environment for employees?” Chancellor Plowman said those are some questions a UTK-specific task force is working to figure out.
Appointed by the Chancellor, the task force is coming up with a series of recommendations and guidelines, looking at every element of what it means to come back.
While it’s hard to tell right now what the fall semester will look like, Chancellor Plowman said she expects wearing masks and temperature checks to be a part of it.
“We’re going to to all be thinking about how we interact, what’s the space between us. Until we have a vaccine, we’re going to all be doing things a little bit differently,” she said.
“If the outside conditions change, if local or state governments change directions, then we will have to reevaluate, but we are planning on classes in the fall,” said UT President Randy Boyd.
That is good news to the UT students we heard from.
“The experiences and friendships I’ve made in the past two years have been extraordinary, and I can’t wait to grow them this semester,” said student Sydney Davis.
“I think just being around everyone. It’s very hard to interact obviously online, but I’m excited to just be around everyone and have that campus feel again,” another student, Erin Conner, said.
Chancellor Plowman anticipates hearing the task force’s ideas on May 18.
“We’re going to have to all be flexible this fall. It is going to look different, but we’re going to be here on Rocky Top, and this is the Volunteers. We know how to step forward and do hard things, and this is another one of those,” the Chancellor said.
Chancellor Plowman also said she’s had a lot of questions about the potential of a college football season in the fall. Students coming back to campus is a decision independent of sports, and she said football is up to the Southeastern Conference.
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