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Resuming classes at Minot State this fall

Heading into the waning days of summer, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share thoughts on MSU’s plans for in-person classes this fall. Last March, along with nearly every other college, in order to complete the spring semester we had to quickly shift from an in-person environment to an online format. Our summer term was also delivered online. So, during the past five months with very few students on campus, we have been making many changes to welcome them back later this month and resume classes in-person.

With the start of the fall semester on Monday, August 24, a robust COVID-19 testing schedule has been established for students, faculty, and staff. We have worked closely with the North Dakota Department of Health and First District Health Unit, and have a series of testing opportunities on campus for the MSU community during the next week. There are additional sites across North Dakota for all college students. Ensuring broad testing access and participation is key to a successful reopening strategy so we can identify any positive cases before the academic year begins. Further testing plans for the duration of the semester are also now being finalized.

Contact tracing is an essential part of the testing process, and just a few days ago the release of the Care19 Alert smartphone app was announced by Governor Burgum. This free contact tracing app utilizes Bluetooth technology and is being promoted to college students for download; it is an important notification tool for those with potential exposure to someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

One of the most notable changes students will see on campus this semester is the implementation of new classroom technology. We are incorporating HyFlex (hybrid flexible) models into virtually every classroom so classes can be taught both in-person and with distance learning technology simultaneously. Classrooms are now equipped with cameras, microphones, speakers, and monitors so the in-class activity can be seen/heard by students at a distance, while at the same time those in the classroom can see/hear the remote students. Most of MSU’s classroom space capacity has been reduced for physical distancing, so this HyFlex technology allows the same number of students to be taught even though they may be alternating who is in the classroom and who is taking the class off-campus on a daily rotation.

Other distancing measures are being taken across campus with new spacing configurations, and many offices now incorporate plexiglass and plastic barriers providing additional protection for our employees as they interact with students and campus visitors.

Although not required, residential students were encouraged to utilize single rooms, and many have done so. Additionally, one residence hall has been taken off-line and is being held as a quarantine/isolation hall to handle positive COVID-19 cases. We have also worked closely with our food service provider, Sodexo, and many traditional aspects of serving meals in the cafeteria will also be different this fall.

A final change that will be readily apparent as students return is the universal masking policy. As directed by the ND State Board of Higher Education, we have enacted new policies beginning August 17 requiring masks to be worn at all times in MSU campus buildings anytime people are in close proximity – including in classrooms, labs, hallways, conference rooms, etc.

Unfortunately, our athletic conference (the NSIC) had to make the difficult decision last week to cancel fall championships and competitions and suspend all sports competitions (including winter sports) until December 31, 2020. MSU has a large number of student-athletes, so this was an especially difficult decision knowing the anguish it brings to many young men and women across campus.

MSU will undoubtedly look and feel a bit different this fall compared to other years, but we are excited to welcome students back and resume classes on campus. Additional information related to our “Beavers Restart” can be found at www.minotstateu.edu/covid/.

All of these steps are being taken in an effort to reduce the possibility of infection and transmission of the COVID-19 virus among students, faculty, and staff, and we look forward to the 2020-21 academic year getting underway across campus.

As always….Go Beavers!

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