WKU shares revised Big Red Restart plan for return to campus

Students walk toward Cherry Hall on the first day of classes at WKU on Aug. 25 in Bowling Green. Mike Clark/HERALD

Leo Bertucci

After reviewing hundreds of feedback forms from a wide range of people involved in the WKU community, President Timothy Caboni announced in an email on Thursday that multiple revisions have been inserted into the Big Red Restart plan.

In-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester will still begin on Aug. 24 and conclude on the Friday before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, any remaining class sessions and exams will be held remotely. According to the revised restart plan, residence halls will be open for students after Thanksgiving, but only until 10 a.m. on Dec. 12. While staying in residence halls, students may be allowed to have only one guest, and in the revised restart plan, that guest does not have to be a WKU student.

In his email, Caboni explained why WKU’s academic calendar will look significantly different this upcoming fall.

“The calendar was modified to mitigate the anticipated flare-up of COVID-19 cases consistent with the yearly return of cold and flu season,” Caboni said.

Before students arrive on campus for orientation events, such as MASTER Plan, the Division of Enrollment and Student Experience will send them guidelines for appropriate social distancing behavior. Upcoming orientation events will be held online or in small group settings, Caboni said.

MASTER Plan activities were originally scheduled to begin on Aug. 18, but they are now set for Aug. 20.

The initial draft of the restart plan revealed that people on campus will be required to wear face masks when inside public areas, such as classrooms and hallways, and when they cannot maintain social distancing outdoors.

The revised plan attempted to clarify questions that students had about the face mask requirement. The new plan states that if a person is maintaining social distancing outdoors, they do not have to wear a mask even if they briefly pass by someone else. If a person is frequently within six feet of others while they’re outside, they must wear a mask.

Daniel Teets, business administration major from Owensboro, believes there shouldn’t be a mandatory face mask policy.

“I know many people who can hardly breathe wearing them, and also the fact that you are constantly touching your face to adjust it makes you more at risk,” Teets said.

Caboni addressed some confusion about how students might be charged if they took an in-person course online. He said that if a student transitioned to a remote setting during the semester, “their tuition assessment will remain at the on-campus rate.”

Caboni said that professors may choose to hold their in-person courses partially or fully online, and if this is the case, the professor will notify the students about the change. Class delivery changes will also appear on TopNet.

“By mid-July, the vast majority of courses will be solidified,” Caboni said.

WKU is moving forward with a plan to hold a commencement ceremony for Spring 2020 graduates on the weekend of Sept. 18. The next commencement ceremony would take place in May 2021 as a shared ceremony between Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates.

“I’m disappointed that they have decided to roll December 2020 graduation in with May 2021 graduation,” said Addison Wethington, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Owensboro. “I understand why they made that decision because of flu season though.”

In the revised restart plan, WKU announced that beginning on July 1, events with 50 or fewer people could be held on campus but only with the approval of the Office of Campus and Community Events.

“The uncertainty of the pandemic, now, and in the weeks and months ahead, complicate the planning process,” Caboni said. “We must now, more than ever before, be increasingly nimble and flexible as we work through this time together.”

The University of Kentucky announced this week that its semester would begin on Aug. 17 rather than an original start date of Aug. 24, to allow classes to finish earlier. Like WKU, UK decided to schedule a transition to remote instruction after Thanksgiving.