The University of Southern California will resume in-person classes in August, President Carol Folt announced in a letter posted on the university's website Tuesday.
Folt wrote that the semester will begin Aug. 17, a week earlier than scheduled, and end before Thanksgiving, adding that social-distancing protocols will be put in place to protect students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To support this schedule, we will not have a fall break in 2020," Folt said in the letter. "Please understand that these plans remain contingent on several factors, including the continued spread of COVID-19, and the health orders from state and local authorities. So, things could change."
Folt said the decision was made after speaking with colleagues, faculty, students, staff, alumni, donors and public health officials to understand issues and challenges on campus and across the city.
"Our health and safety procedures will be guided by the L.A. County Department of Health, and our own internal Health Policy leadership team, and will be focused on safeguarding individuals and the community,'' Folt said.
Folt also announced the coming launch of a "Trojans Return" website that will post pertinent information.
Among the steps Folt said the university has taken are:
-- Almost every in-person class will also be offered online to provide more flexibility to students and faculty;
-- A number of different types of courses; some will have a mixture of online and in-person modalities, such as online large lectures, in-person discussions and labs; some may be fully in-person such as dance; and others could be fully online;
-- Students who may not be able to attend in-person classes will be given the online support needed to continue their coursework online and remotely;
-- Resources have been deployed in schools and in the Center for Excellence in Teaching to enable faculty to re-imagine and implement their courses in the physically distanced environment and online, including upgrading approximately 250 general-use classrooms to enable simultaneous lecture capture and teaching via Zoom;
-- Orientation programs and activities to begin the week of Aug. 10 and conducted online for all new incoming students and if possible, with some smaller, in-person events;
-- Information about move-in dates housing and registration will follow soon;
-- Graduate and professional programs are developing calendars to meet their specific needs, which may differ from central university-wide orientations and programming;
-- Classrooms, offices and other campus spaces are being reconfigured to accommodate physical-distancing requirements;
-- Residence halls and on-campus dining facilities will be modified to reduce density and contact; take-out dining options will be expanded, and the number of students to a room will be reduced;
-- Traffic flow and pedestrian walkways will be marked to limit congestion;
-- Cleaning and sanitation of buildings, classes and public spaces will be done frequently and according to strict protocols and health and safety guidelines;
-- The testing and contact tracing protocols being followed on campus will be expanded and enhanced during the fall semester to include returning staff, faculty and students;
-- The wearing of face coverings and physical distancing is mandatory;
-- Failure to follow these requirements and any others determined necessary to protect the health, safety and well-being of the entire community will lead to disciplinary actions.
-- USC Athletics will follow the guidance of government officials, Pac-12, NCAA and the university on when and how athletes can return to campus;
-- The Pac-12 Conference has allowed for voluntary in-person athletic workouts for all sports to begin June 15; however, each school will determine how this works on its campus; no decisions have been made at USC.
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"For the plan to succeed, our entire community must be part of the solution," Folt said. "Trojans caring for Trojans and for our neighbors.
"Each member of our community will be asked to agree in writing to follow campus and public health policies and guidelines, if they wish to return to campus activities.
"We are also developing required educational training sessions for our faculty, students, and staff to take at home before returning to campus.
"I am confident that with the participation of you all, we will be able to return safely."
Folt said there is also a "Plan B" if instruction is disrupted by a surge of the coronavirus, which she said the university will provide more information on in the coming weeks.
"By offering most courses both online and in-person, if safer-at-home orders were to be put in place for short or even longer periods, it would be much easier for us to transition, now that we have gone through so much of this planning already," she said.
Folt said USC will constantly reevaluate plans and adjust if necessary to restrict activities or change procedures.
"We will do our best to keep you informed as soon as we become aware of such needs, and appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we continue to move into uncharted waters," Folt said.