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Isolation rooms, face masks; what the Fall semester will look like for local colleges

East Tennessee colleges and universities are making changes for when students return to campus


Face-to-face classes

Carson-Newman University: Fall semester begins Aug. 19 as originally scheduled. There will be no Fall Break, and students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving. The remainder of the semester will be conducted virtually.

“When we looked at the semester, there were only a few tweaks we needed to do like canceling fall break and moving to the online experience following Thanksgiving. Otherwise, we can use the schedule as is,” said  Provost Jeremy Buckner.

Lincoln Memorial University: Fall semester begins August 17 as originally scheduled. The semester will follow the traditional academic calendar with Labor Day and Thanksgiving holiday breaks.

“That was a long discussion. Different institutions are modifying their schedule, shortening them or starting earlier, and all for appropriate reasons to try to decrease exposure to the potential virus. In our case, the way our summer schedule played out and moving into the fall, the timeframe that we had to work with, we just found that it was not possible for us,” said Dr. Mark Moran, Vice President and Dean of the School of Medical Science and head of the task force addressing the pandemic at LMU.

Maryville College: Fall semester begins Aug. 19, one week earlier than scheduled. It will not include a Labor Day holiday or Fall Break. Residence halls will close before Thanksgiving with students taking their final exams remotely.

 “What we looked at when changing our schedule was the public health guidelines in two ways. One is the concern that if there was a large dispersal of people from campus and then a re-gathering, that could promote transmission of the virus. And then second, there was concern about an increase in cases especially after Thanksgiving as flu season started,” Tom Bogart, President of Maryville College, explained.  

University of Tennessee: Fall Semester begins Aug. 19. It will not include a Labor Day holiday or Fall Break. Residence halls will close before Thanksgiving with students taking their final exams remotely. The time between classes will be extended to help students maintain social distancing while getting around campus. The University is considering adding more evening and lab class options.

“The idea was to minimize the amount of time that we're here.  We recognize the importance of having classes on campus and having students on campus,” Spencer Gregg, The Incident Commander for UT’s Pandemic Response Plan, said.

Dining Halls

Carson-Newman University: The school is considering expanding it’s ‘provisions on-demand’ service with a food delivery option like they instituted during the spring semester. Buckner said the biggest challenge they’re addressing is how to move students in and out of the dining hall.

“Just like when you go to a restaurant, you won’t see napkin dispensers on the table. So those have all moved to a place where they can be sanitized.  So, in many ways, we were already doing that this spring,” Buckner said.

Lincoln Memorial University: Carry out will be encouraged and seating will be limited inside the dining hall. There will also be rotating times for students to eat inside to allow staff to clean and sanitize the room.

“The dining facilities are set up so that everything is disposable. Everything will be given in a carryout fashion,” Moran said.

Maryville College: Instead of the ‘serve yourself’ style, Maryville College’s dining hall has had in the past, guests will now tell employees what they’d like on their plates. During lunch hours, the dining hall will only be open to students.

“I often refer to our main dining hall as the best buffet in Blount County. It’s an accurate description and this fall, it will still have amazing food. However, it will not be self-service,” Bogart said.

University of Tennessee:  UT is expanding its carryout options and considering other ideas to reduce lines and crowds during peak meal times. The dining halls are currently not self-serve.

“I think the students will probably like some of the changes that we're doing because it'll actually reduce their wait time,” Gregg said.


Carson-Newman University: Many classes will adopt a hybrid online teaching model to cut down on the number of students physically inside the classroom. Larger classes will be divided up.

“I want to give that choice to the faculty, but set some expectations.  There will definitely be changes,” Buckner said.

Lincoln Memorial University: Large lecture classes may adapt a hybrid model or continue to stay completely virtual. Other classroom capacities will be condensed as well.

“It’s really going to be monitored at the Faculty level. They will be in charge of the classroom or in charge of the laboratory space and what they deem is most appropriate for the safety of themselves and the students there,” Moran said.

Maryville College: Large classes will be broken up into smaller sections. Some may include online elements to help with social distancing.

“Our largest lecture hall is about 100 seats. So, it's a very different experience at Maryville College than at some of our other neighbors, particularly the University of Tennessee. But, we face a lot of the same kinds of challenges in a classroom,” Bogart said about the need to disperse some of its classes.

University of Tennessee: Small classes will likely meet in larger spaces, and large lecture classes may be broken up or converted to a hybrid virtual format.  In rooms with moveable furniture, chairs will be removed, and there will be signs marking where students can sit.  

"If it's a room that we're not able to accommodate that six feet of distancing, the bottom line is, it's got to be a room that we can do that or we're not going to be using it for that purpose,” Gregg said.

Dorm Life

Carson-Newman University: During the current downtime, the school is renovating many of its dorms for the Fall Semester. They’re considering a revision to on-campus living requirements for freshmen through juniors. Final decisions will be made later this summer.

“When they come back on campus, not only will we have these new provisions on how to live in this new environment, but they'll also see a new place that’s clean and fresh,” Buckner said.

Lincoln Memorial University: Students undergo an extensive educational process to learn how to move about the residence halls and keep their areas clean.

“At this point in time, we will not have any intentional decrease in capacity of housing because we are still are trying to accommodate the students who want to be here for their education,” Moran said.

Maryville College: Students who live in halls with community-style bathrooms will receive his/her own room. Students who already signed up to live with roommates in suites or apartments with self-contained kitchens and bathrooms can do so, but they’ll have to sign a liability waiver.

“We've got sufficient rooms available on campus to be able to house all of the students who want housing. So,  we're excited about that, to have the ability to provide that experience that people really want to have, but do it in a way that's as safe as possible,” Bogart said.

University of Tennessee: The university is considering required temperature checks, COVID-19 testing and flu shots, but has not made a final decision on those. 

Residence halls with community-style bathrooms are open, but rooms in those halls will not be used for students who need to self-isolate. Only rooms with private bathrooms on floors that will be closed to other residents will be used for self-isolating students.

“We didn't feel comfortable using those,” Gregg said.

Face Masks

Carson-Newman University: University leaders plan to make many of their final decisions closer to the Fall Semester. Buckner expects face masks to be part of the campus culture though.

“The difficulty is when you make something a requirement, how do you police that?” Buckner said, adding that they want students to look at wearing a mask through the Christian perspective of helping others.

Lincoln Memorial University: Face masks are required in all common areas of buildings such as classrooms and labs where physical distancing is not possible. In cases where students and staff are able to safely distance themselves inside a classroom, Moran said they would be able to remove their face mask.

“We have some classrooms that are capable of seating 400 people and so we can distance folks in a classroom that size, whereas a classroom that only seats 10 or 12, it would be a little bit more difficult,” Moran said.

Maryville College:  Face masks are required in all common areas, buildings and whenever social distancing is not possible.

“We're not a huge campus, but we will have 1000 to 1500 people, depending on the day, in relatively close proximity to each other. And, so we really need to take these precautions to keep all of us safe,” Bogart said.

University of Tennessee: Face masks are required inside and outside on campus except within private spaces and controlled environments. That includes classrooms and elevators. The university ordered 100,000 masks to give out to students and staff.  

“Presently, and with COVID everything changes from one moment to the next, but right now our plans are that that cloth face mask or facial coverings will be required in public spaces and in any space where you are unable to effectively remain socially distant or maintain that six feet of separation,” Gregg said.

If someone tests positive

Carson-Newman University: The campus has several locations that can be converted for isolation including an apartment typically reserved for international scholars.

“We'll take that offline and make other accommodations if we need to,” Buckner said.

Lincoln Memorial University: If there’s a positive case within the LMU residential community, isolation accommodations have been prepared and meals will be delivered.

Maryville College: Rooms will be set aside to serve as isolation rooms for students who get sick or need quarantining.

“We have an amazing staff, some student workers as well as professional staff on campus, who will make sure we stay in contact with that student, as long as it's a matter where they don't have symptoms or they aren’t severe, that they're getting their needs met, they're getting food and, and they have the ability to catch up with the work when possible,” Bogart said adding that the student would isolate in his or her room.

University of Tennessee: Rooms are reserved for students who test positive for COVID-19 as well as those who need to self-isolate due to potential exposure.

Visiting Campus

Carson-Newman University: CMU's current visitor policies will remain in place. 

Lincoln Memorial University: All guests must be pre-approved before visiting residence halls. Many portions of campus are open and utilized by the public, such as the park, and will remain so.

"Really what we're targeting with guests are especially in our residential halls, as well as in our academic facilities. We're going to limit those on a case by case basis,” Moran said.

Maryville College: Guests will have to adhere to the policies set in place. There will be additional signs around campus.

“We're not going to stop parents from being able to see their children or things like that. But, we are going to have some guidelines in place, both for off campus visitors and even just to help people have a well informed basis for making good decisions,” Bogart said.

University of Tennessee: The University is still finalizing its plans, but visiting groups will have to be pre-approved and adhere to the health department guidelines. Visitations to residents halls will be restricted.

“In our residence halls , we’re not going to be allowing visitors to come. It's going to be limited to the residents of the hall, except of course with move-in days,” Gregg said.  

Traveling/ Study abroad programs

Carson-Newman University: At this point, traveling is restricted. Buckner said they’re waiting to make a final decision, but it’s likely that programs will be put off until the spring semester.

Lincoln Memorial University: LMU is restricting University-sponsored student travel to countries identified by the CDC as a travel warning level of 2 or 3 at the time of travel.

Maryville College: Maryville College is using its virtual relationships with other countries, but in-person traveling is restricted.  

“The U.S. State Department has been historically who we look to for guidance on what it means to travel safely. And unfortunately, in the current environment, it's pretty much a blanket ‘don't do it unless you absolutely have to.’  Unfortunately, they don't see student travel as essential,” Bogart said.

University of Tennessee: UTK Programs Abroad announced Thursday that it is postponing and in some cases canceling all of its study abroad programs for the fall semester. 

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