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K-State Today

July 7, 2020

Progress on planning for fall 2020

Submitted by Chuck Taber

Dear Colleagues, 

As we prepare for a fall semester unlike any in our history, I know that many of you are anxious to know the details of the plans for returning to our campuses. K-Staters across the university, colleges and departments are working hard to collect information, develop reopening plans, and finalize and communicate important guidance and decisions. President Myers provided a June 26 update on the status of many of these planning efforts, including a requirement to wear face coverings.

Understandably, we have heard from many of you with detailed questions. We are working to respond to your questions through a robust set of FAQ that will be posted on the redesigned K-State COVID-19 website. Additional detailed guidance and FAQ related to health and wellness practices are forthcoming later this week.

While our guidance is being updated for fall, I believe it is important to emphasize some basic practices that are already in effect and are especially essential while we are seeing a rising number of cases. We can all help keep our campus communities safe by following the guidance of Lafene Health Center and the university, the local health department, KDHE and CDC. Everyone should self-assess their symptoms and should not come to campus if you are sick or have illness symptoms of the coronavirus as listed on the CDC website. If you develop any of these symptoms while on campus, you should leave and return to your local residence. 

If you are in any of the following categories, you should follow the isolation and quarantine protocols that are currently available on the KDHE and CDC websites:

  • Tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Have a sick family member or roommate with COVID-19.
  • Have been in close contact with another person who has COVID-19.
  • Have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results.
  • Recently traveled and returned to Kansas from a high-risk area listed on the KDHE website.

I urge all members of the community to practice prevention behaviors, including wearing a face covering, maintaining a six-feet physical distance from others outside your home, and washing your hands often. Our vigilance in this regard helps to slow the spread of the virus and protect ourselves and our communities. 

Planning for academic instruction in the fall is also advancing rapidly. Classroom assessment and planning to address physical distancing requirements, ventilation issues and technology upgrades is nearing completion, as well as formalizing the details of the practices to promote health and wellness in the classroom.

Faculty, departments and colleges are engaged in determining how to best offer students robust and innovative teaching and learning experiences this fall that will include courses offered in-person, online, or in a blended/hybrid format. We know this work will lead to changes in format, schedules and location. These changes must be finalized in the next two weeks so students who have already enrolled in fall courses can be notified. This will allow students to make changes to their course schedules, pending availability of courses, by the first of August. 

As we envision the teaching and learning experiences we will offer this fall, there are several key considerations to keep in mind.

  1. We will have reduced in-person classroom capacities. To minimize risk to faculty and students, we are de-densifying all classrooms and instructional spaces by requiring six-feet physical distancing and assessing these spaces for ventilation issues.
    • Fully in-person classes will be limited to enrollment of less than 50 students and those classes will need to be held in larger classrooms to support physical distancing requirements.
    • Classes with 50 or more students will be offered through high-quality online instruction or in a blended/hybrid format that maintains in-person class meetings to less than 50 students.
    • Priorities for in-person classes are for those where face-to-face instruction is maximally effective, such as labs, performance courses and clinical instruction. 
  2. Teaching approaches must meet students where they are and accommodate COVID-19 concerns. This fall, and most likely this entire academic year, will continue to be disruptive to students as well as faculty and staff. Teaching modalities will need to accommodate students who are sick or who will be in a 14-day quarantine. Additionally, students who are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 exposure will need to have online options available to them. Finally, we also know that some students and their families are expressing a desire to avoid in-person classes for the fall and we should provide online options to them as part of our course and class offerings, when possible. To support faculty and GTAs, the Online Course Design Institute has been reframed to include insights on blended learning modalities and the one-on-one instructional design support appointments continue.

  3. We must be ready to pivot to fully remote teaching. We need to be prepared with contingency plans to move entirely to remote instruction if necessitated by COVID-19 surges at K-State or in our communities. The university is currently working to identify the circumstances that would trigger such a decision. 

  4. The health and safety of our faculty and staff is always a high priority. We are currently in Phase 3 of our reopening plan and we realistically will not advance to the full phase out during this academic year. To de-densify our campuses and reduce both individual and community risk, we will continue to encourage all employees to work virtually to the extent possible. For those faculty and GTAs in the CDC high risk categories for COVID-19, working remotely is particularly important and teaching online should be encouraged. Faculty preferences for teaching modality should be honored to the maximum extent possible. 

The planning work for our academic instruction model for the next academic year is being guided by the recommendations of the Academic Instruction working group. As we make decisions about our academic instruction model for the coming year, we will be guided by our need to:

  • Continue to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, GTAs, staff and our communities.
  • Maintain high-quality learning environments for our students.
  • Balance the needs of students and of faculty/GTAs.
  • Be adaptable to respond to changing conditions related to COVID-19. 

I am grateful to the academic instruction working group and all the working groups, faculty, staff and students who have been and are continuing to make extraordinary efforts to deliver outstanding teaching and learning, research, and extension/outreach during this pandemic. Please continue to visit the K-State COVID-19 website for information and updates. 

Fall 2020 will be a semester like no other. As a university, we have the opportunity to come together, provide leadership, and advance our land-grant mission in truly unprecedented times. Our success depends on each of us. 

Please take care of yourself and each other. 


Chuck Taber
Provost and executive vice president