ORLANDO, Fla. – More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced the University of Central Florida to move many classes online and overhaul campus operations, the university is planning a “full return” at the beginning of the fall semester.
UCF Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Michael D. Johnson penned an email Monday letting students and faculty know what to expect when the fall semester begins on Aug. 23.
“We have adapted to new ways of learning, working and living. We have learned how to live with the pandemic and adopt new behaviors to minimize its spread. And with the mass availability of many effective vaccines gaining momentum, we are hopeful for a return to something closer to normal, even though the pandemic will be part of our reality for some time,” Johnson wrote.
The school will continue its current operations through the summer then come August, more in-person classes will be offered and current capacity restrictions will be lifted. The campus mask mandate will remain in place along with extra cleanings. Frequent hand washing will be encouraged.
“I don’t know what to expect but I’m more excited to have everyone back if they can do it in a safe way,” freshman Claire Wickramasuria said.
Freshman Richard Rentz said he and other students are excited to get back in the classroom.
“I would prefer to go in-person because it’s easier to learn and retain information. Most of the online classes are ‘do-it-yourself’ and not really meeting in a Zoom with an instructor,” Rentz said.
Other students are saying it’s too soon.
“It’s kind of crazy that we’re all jumping back to it so quickly. Of course everyone wants to, but it’s how fast should we be going. Especially since a lot of us hasn’t been vaccinated or won’t be vaccinated. It’s a health risk,” said freshman Adelaide Riedesel.
There will still be an expansive offering of online courses and some staff members may opt to work remotely either full-time or part-time.
Johnson said if needed, personnel are ready to shift back to a remote learning model.
“In the weeks ahead, you will hear more about expectations for the transition to more face-to-face learning and working, including plans for the student experience and activities,” he wrote.
UCF leaders are also hoping that the campus will be selected as a mass vaccination site, which would allow easy access for students and faculty who’d like to get inoculated against COVID-19 once they’re eligible.
“It is likely that essential workers – including faculty and staff members – and eventually students will be able to receive vaccines at UCF. If this indeed becomes possible, we will share information about eligibility and how to make appointments,” Johnson said.
Since March 2020, at least 1,414 students and 346 employees have tested positive for the respiratory illness, according to figures provided by the university.
Johnson told the campus community to stay tuned for more details on what to expect in the coming months.
“Please stay vigilant – wear your mask properly, keep your physical distance, avoid large gatherings and wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Cases have been dropping recently in the state, the Orlando region and at UCF. Let’s keep it going,” he said.
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