Safely Reopening

Baylor Fall Planning Heavy on Flexibility

Although Baylor University intends to return to in-person classes in the fall, the Texas institution said that doesn't mean it's planning for a "normal start." Among the work being undertaken currently is planning for the use of online courses to run alongside in-person classes, development of campus "quarantine spaces," rules about facial coverings and tactical use of classroom space to accommodate physical distancing.

The university's "Project 8.24" planning team (named for the data when Baylor's fall session begins) is "planning for the worst and hoping for the best," according to a recent memo to the campus community from President Linda Livingstone.

Planning includes a five-phase framework for reopening the campus to staff and faculty. Beginning this week, Baylor is bringing back staff in operations and facilities, IT, student health and research. Over the next 90 days, staff from additional offices will begin working on campus again, with "staggered attendance" by faculty, staff and "certain students" beginning in July.

According to reporting by the Waco Tribune-Herald, Baylor planners expect to continue holding the largest classes online, to free up large lecture halls for small classes to convene on campus while still leaving six feet between students. For courses with more than one section, at least one of those will be dedicated to the online format, to help those who have to quarantine themselves and international students who can't return to campus.

The newspaper reported that Student Life administrators are still planning how residence halls will operate; but the proposal is expected to include "contingency plans for isolation or quarantine spaces on campus in case a student in the dorms tests positive for COVID-19."

While the university has been delivering remote education officially since Mar. 16, 2020, following spring break, to finish out the spring semester, it also announced an online "summer of discovery" program, encouraging students to take bundles of classes at a discount during three separate summer sessions.

Last week the Baylor Broad of Regents approved a budget of $679.9 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. That's about $14.2 million less than last year, with $73.3 million in cuts to address expected "significant headwinds" caused by COVID-19. For example, the campus is expecting fewer students in dorms and dining halls, resulting in a decline in that revenue. Cuts fall into three broad categories: cost reductions ($30.3 million), one-time funding reallocations ($24.5 million) and cost avoidances ($18.5 million). While a hiring freeze has been implemented, various units are reviewing where to lay off staff.

"While we cannot eliminate all risks, we intend to mitigate these threats in every reasonable way we can," Livingstone wrote. "In the weeks and months ahead, we will work diligently to refine our preparations to create a safe, productive educational environment for all of you."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.