Early this week, faculty and students were notified about changes to the format of course offerings for Fall 2021 via University messages and a video message from Associate Vice Provost of Student Success Dr. Andrew Hamilton.
Much progress has been made in addressing the pandemic, including wide-spread availability of vaccines and a significant drop in COVID-19 cases. Most restrictions related to face coverings and distancing have been removed by the NC Department of Health and Human Services for the larger community. On campus, we have chosen to take a cautious and considered approach to changing COVID-19 related protocols, and continue to review guidance and discuss best practices with our public health partners and peers.
Thanks to great progress made against COVID-19, we are now able to offer more in-person courses and as a result are adjusting student schedules. The limitations of in-person opportunities are a function of caps on both classroom capacity and class size. Given the very low rate of infection in our community, the availability of vaccines, and several other factors, the University has reset classroom capacities to their pre-COVID levels. We are confident that this approach will still yield safe learning environments for the following reasons:
- Our classrooms that have desks or tables – the majority of our classrooms – inherently provide distance between individuals.
- Our auditorium-style classrooms do place students in greater proximity to each other, but were rarely at full capacity in pre-COVID times. Once we determine the number of students we need to accommodate in auditorium-style spaces, administrators will work with Space Management to determine how to configure use of those rooms in a way that allows for as much distance as possible.
- The air handling systems for all classroom buildings were assessed last summer, and adjustments were made where needed. It’s important to remember that classroom capacities, even pre-COVID, are dictated by environmental health and safety standards.
- Face coverings will still be required in instructional spaces.
- We will continue to offer vaccines to students and employees on campus, and will continue to strongly encourage members of our community to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.
- We will continue to offer free testing for employees and students, and will continue mandatory surveillance testing for students living in residence halls who have not been vaccinated.
- We will continue to carefully monitor cases of the virus on campus and in the community, and will make adjustments as needed should case counts begin to rise.
- We will continue to remind everyone that, should they feel ill, they should stay home and consult their doctor to see if they need to be tested.
- We will continue our self-reporting process so we can monitor case rates and conduct contact tracing.
The University does not expect or anticipate that every classroom will be filled to capacity. Instead, this approach gives us much greater flexibility with the scheduling process. Faculty are asked to monitor their email for student outreach regarding these changes.
Students who are directly affected by these schedule changes will receive emails letting them know that adjustments have been made. Please note that we are not making changes to the days or times to existing courses in the fall; we know students chose those slots intentionally, and we are doing everything we can to preserve student schedules as they were during the spring registration period. Students who are unsure of how their courses will be delivered are encouraged to look carefully at their schedules in UNCGenie, especially during the next few weeks as adjustments are being made. We anticipate that some students may have schedule conflicts as a result of these changes. Students who have questions specific to their situation or now want to change class sections should contact their course instructors or their academic advisors. Links to University advising contacts can be found here.