SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - While Florida businesses are trying to figure out how, and how fast, to re-open, universities and colleges are doing the same. The State University System's Task Force has been working for several weeks now on a framework for all schools to follow.
Governor Ron DeSantis made the announcement last week – that while schools must continue distance learning for now, they can begin creating plans to bring students back to campus this fall.
“Understanding that when we come back, it won’t be what we left. For some people, they have expectations that what they come back to will be the exact same thing they left, but it will be different. It will be different for who knows how long, but different doesn’t mean it wont be solid or just as great academic quality as before. It will just be different,” explained Dr. Carol Probstfeld, the President of State College of Florida.
The official public meeting where the State University System's Task Force will outline the general plan for them to follow will be held on Thursday, but universities on the Suncoast have already started their plans on how students will return.
“We’re looking at ways to reduce classroom capacity such as moving classes to larger rooms, and we’re planning on having students move back to campus in stages so we have less people gathered in one place at one time,” Ann Comer-Woods, Communications Director for New College of Florida, tells us.
They’ve looked at different scenarios to continue social distancing like keeping some classes online while others will be in person, delaying the first day of school, and having testing made available daily on campuses.
“At some point we’re going to have to do this. There will always be people that will not be compliant, but I think most people care about other people enough that they probably will be. We have to trust that our students will take care of themselves and take care of their colleagues,” expressed Dr. Karen Holbrook, USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Chancellor.
Each plan will be tailored to each school.
“For us at USF Sarasota-Manatee, it’s a little bit easier since we don’t have the residence halls, and students come in and don’t spend the whole day on campus. They come for their classes and usually leave, but nonetheless we still have to go through the same precautions that any other university would,” Dr. Holbrook said.
Some university officials have pointed to a need to announce decisions by early to mid-July to be prepared for the start of the semester, but noting that everything can change.
“Between now and the start of the fall session, the whole world could change again. So we have to be as flexible as possible. We are doing everything in our power to build structures that allow us to be as flexible as possible,” explained Dr. Probstfeld.
After the public meeting on Thursday, universities will be asked to develop individual plans based on the guidelines. They will present their plans to the Florida Board of Governors on June 23.