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'Full steam ahead' | University of Tennessee moves forward with re-opening plan

About 29,000 students are enrolled for the fall semester.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — In just three weeks, classes will resume at the University of Tennessee, but things will be different.

About a third of all classes will be in a hybrid format with some face-to-face component. About a fifth of instruction will be completely face-to-face and the other 45 percent will be completely online.

There are social distancing floor stickers, mask requirements and signage reminding people to follow the rules.

"Vols take care of Vols and that's what we're expecting our students will do," Chancellor Donde Plowman said. "I have a lot of confidence in our students that they're going to abide by the guidelines because they want this experience. They want to be back."

Every student will receive a welcome kit with an orange mask, a gray mask, a neck gaiter and thermometer.

"We're serious about them taking their temperature every day," Plowman said. "That's on the self app that they're going to fill out each day."

Face coverings will be required in classrooms, elevators, public transportation and all indoor and outdoor situation where you cannot maintain a 6-foot distance from other people.

"The masks are about compassion. The masks are about you, your mask is about me," Plowman said. "We don't want mask police running around. We want students to police each other."

If a student "repeatedly" and "flagrantly ignores" the mask policy, Plowman said there will be a student conduct process that gets initiated. Professors will have extra masks available for any student that forgets theirs at home.

As for the safety of faculty, Plowman said everyone was given the option of in-person or virtual instruction.

"A very big concern of ours is keeping our faculty healthy," she said. "Those that are teaching face to face in a hybrid situation, many of them will be behind Plexiglas. They're going to have masks, they'll have face shields."

Plowman said she will be teaching an in-person class as well.

"Classrooms have been completely changed... new technology, new equipment — everything we could think of, we've done," Plowman said. "I'm so proud of all the preparations that have been made and we're full steam ahead."

The University of Tennessee will provide free COVID-19 testing at the student health center. They will follow all health department and CDC guidelines for contact tracing and isolation.

Plowman said while dorm requests were up, they will only be 75 to 80 percent occupancy.

"We want to de-densify the dorms. We've also rented/purchased/created a number of isolation beds," she said. "If a student does test positive, they have a place to go while they recover."

About 29,000 students have enrolled for the fall semester. Plowman said they've seen an increase in terms of new students and transfer students.