Northwestern State University is joining sister schools in the University of Louisiana System in planning a return to face-to-face instruction for the Fall 2020 semester. NSU, along with other institutions, is designing plans specific to the NSU community that prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty and staff and the university’s educational mission.
“We have missed the usual activity that normally takes place on our campus. We are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus as appropriate safeguards and health measures are implemented to ensure the health and welfare of our personnel, which remains the university’s highest priority,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio.
“Throughout this event our member institutions have prioritized safety and learning. Those will remain our chief considerations as we begin the process of re-populating our campuses,” UL System President and CEO Jim Henderson said. “The university experience is more than just attending class and we are optimistic, with the right safeguards in place and following the guidance of health experts, that we will be able to safely return to campus in August.”
Maggio announced a phased return to campus for employees beginning Monday, May 18 to bring back personnel in a limited capacity, including protocols for maintaining social distancing. During the stay-at-home order, faculty and staff worked remotely to help students complete the semester and the university presented a virtual graduation May 8. While the campus was mostly empty, administrators worked to ensure that buildings and facilities are ready for reopening.
“Red River Sanitors has conducted thorough cleaning and sanitization of all restrooms and public areas throughout the campus in recent weeks,” Maggio said. “The Physical Plant staff is working to install glass and plexiglass barriers in high traffic areas of the Student Services and WRAC facilities and will have these projects completed over the next few weeks. Hand sanitizer stations have also been placed in high traffic areas. Elevators will have limited occupancy of two passengers at a time.”
Last month UL System Board Chair Mark Romero appointed an ad hoc committee on post-pandemic operations who will meet later this month to discuss returning to campus and review System-level guidelines to assist universities in transitioning to more normal operations.
“Our universities have been in lock-step through the interruptions we experienced the past couple of months,” Henderson said. “This systemic coordination is beneficial to students, faculty, staff and the state as a whole.”
The System’s guidelines will address the re-populating of campuses based on external and internal conditions, including segmenting return by waves; testing requirements; increased hygiene; communication practices; and distancing protocols.