As the vaccines for COVID are being distributed and the number of cases is going down, CSI is looking ahead to the Fall 2021 semester when we anticipate having a greater number of face-to-face experiences and more faculty and staff on campus. Most forecasts by health professionals indicate that we will still be using social distancing and masks for the fall semester, so we need to plan accordingly. Allowing for the gradual transition detailed in the CSI re-entry plan, we expect to be at phase 3 (roughly 25% occupancy) by the beginning of the Fall semester. For our campus, this still means that the bulk of courses will be delivered entirely or partially via distance education, and that classes with some or all instruction done in person will be prioritized to those with the greatest programmatic need for face-to-face interactions, including accreditation needs, lab experiments, or studio instruction. Chairs, Deans, and Program Directors have been asked to work together on this prioritization as we develop the Fall schedule.
One of the main obstacles we face as we contemplate return to campus is the capacity of classrooms, teaching labs, and studios as is required for social distancing. For in-person instruction, the capacity of most rooms will be 50 to 60% of that previously allowed, which will require modifications on a room-by-room basis for any on-campus instruction. We will also be outfitting up to 40 classrooms with technology to allow blended instruction, reaching a mix of students attending in person and those participating by distance education.
To incorporate on-campus instruction, we will need to employ more flexibility in times, dates, and locations where courses are scheduled. We are looking at maximizing the time slots for course offerings, including weekends and evenings. Courses may be offered in different rooms and buildings than where they usually take place, and our re-entry plan calls for some campus buildings remaining closed for instruction while we remain in phase three.
We have a lot of work to do to prepare for the fall, and the Administration and the Re-Entry committee will be working over the spring and summer to ensure that our return to campus is as safe and academically rich as possible. Those students who want an entirely online education may still be able to do so, but we also want to provide as many opportunities for on-campus learning as resources and facilities allow.
I am grateful to all of you for your dedication and persistence as we have moved through this difficult period. It is hoped that we are near the end of the beginning of our global response to this pandemic, and I look forward to the time when we can all safely be back on campus again. In the meantime, I hope you are all staying warm and safe.
By Michael Parrish