Texas A&M Readies To Welcome Students Back To Campus
Texas A&M administrators, faculty and staff have spent much of the last eight weeks reshaping the fall semester, knowing it will look exceptionally different but expecting Aggies to rise to the challenge.
A&M’s recent online-only learning effort launched with little time to prepare after the global pandemic struck Texas in mid-spring, but it has evolved over the past 4 ½ months into a high-functioning endeavor for the university.
When classes start Aug. 19, officials expect more than 50 percent of course sections will be offered face-to-face, while 75 percent of students likely will have two or more courses in person.
The hybrid model of having a mix of both in-person and online classes has required adjustments not just in how professors are reaching their students, but also in how classrooms operate. Some modifications include:
- Movable plexiglass shields have been installed at the front of classrooms.
- Each classroom is required to follow a maximum occupancy of roughly 33 percent of its normal capacity.
- Seats will be clearly identified so that students can maintain physical distance.
- Some classes will be held in untraditional places, including ballrooms at the Memorial Student Center, the Equine Center, a portion of Rudder Complex and a few athletic venues.
- Cameras and microphones have been installed in all university-managed classrooms; the camera will be able to capture a broad area near the front of the room.
- Classrooms will be cleaned twice a day. Hand-sanitizer will be placed at the entrance to every building. High-traffic lobbies and teaching spaces will get more cleaning and disinfection.
- Students will be encouraged to stay outdoors between classes and not linger in hallways.
- Most rooms on the main campus have increased air flow in the HVAC system and a decreased amount of recirculated air.
Provost Carol A. Fierke said that all the changes have a constant theme: Safety first.
“Surrounding the decision-making throughout this summer have been in-depth and informed conversations focusing on the health and safety of the campus community as COVID-19 remains a danger,” Fierke said.
Reopening the campus to students carefully and responsibly requires making the best decisions with information that is changing by the day, Fierke said, adding that her team is working closely with faculty, public health experts, physicians and others.
One mandate the group decided on: Everyone must wear a face covering on campus. If they refuse, an instructor can ask the student to leave and join the class remotely. If the student doesn’t leave, the faculty member is expected to report the student to the Student Conduct Office* for sanctions.
The only exceptions to that rule are if a person has a disability or religious reason for not wearing a face covering. Faculty members can lecture in face shields if they want, but must have something covering their face as they enter and exit buildings.
Helpful A&M links and information:
- Money to pay for computers available: A&M is requiring students to have access to a computer to complement course instruction. Funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act have been made available for students needing a computer. They may submit an Emergency Aid Application or fill out an application housed in the Financial Aid Portal.
- A&M guidance: Texas A&M’s COVID-19 guidance, which houses all messaging from the university.
- Regular updates: Provost’s website.
- Must-read for students: Officials with the Department of Student Affairs created a guide that includes many resources, as well as answers to questions like what students should do if they are exposed to someone who has COVID-19 or if they test positive for the virus.
- Face covering policy* and FAQ*, including how to report a violation.
- Class schedules: Information about class scheduling and instruction will be updated often.
- Feeling sick: Student Health Services are asking students experiencing any high-risk symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste/smell, diarrhea — to book a telemedicine appointment through the patient portal or call 979-458-8310.
- Where to report testing positive: Students, faculty and staff who test positive for COVID or who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are required to self-report through this COVID-19 Report Form. More information on the reporting process is on the Provost’s website*.
- More information on report monitoring and cleaning/disinfection is available on the Provost’s website*.
- Free COVID-19 testing: Student Health Services will be doing free testing for students, faculty and staff starting next week. Details about how to register for the test and where it will be administered is expected later this week.
* These links are no longer active and have been removed.