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K-State Today

May 4, 2020

Looking ahead to the fall semester

Submitted by President Myers

Dear K-State community:

As Kansas nears its projected peak in COVID-19 cases, the steps we've taken to reduce the impact of the virus are working. There is cause for hope and optimism even though the situation can change rapidly. Based on the most recent guidance from our state and local health officials, we intend to resume on-campus operations this fall semester.

We know it will not be a return to the “normal” known in the past. There are many who remain vulnerable due to high-risk health situations or other factors. Any plans to reopen our campuses must take this into consideration, along with the very real chance that we could see a resurgence of the virus this fall and winter.

The state of Kansas is ramping up testing capability and hiring workers to help with contact tracing, two essential capabilities that are needed to allow us to reopen. Our own Biosecurity Research Institute and Veterinary Diagnostic Lab have courageously enlisted in the effort to expand local testing. While not yet at the capacity we need, the direction of testing is promising.

Many have indicated a strong desire to get back on our campuses to continue learning, teaching, research and discovery. This can happen only if we remain vigilant and continue best practices to keep our communities safe. We will heed the guidance of our state and local health officials, as we have throughout this crisis. The collaboration between these officials and our university has been outstanding.

Our way forward will be in the spirit of protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff, as well as our symbiotic communities. It will take a team effort to bring back the K-State we know and love so well. To this end, we have several groups working diligently to prepare plans to reawaken our campuses. The timeline will depend on continued progress toward reducing the spread of the virus in our communities.

The Executive Leadership Recovery Group has developed an initial framework for resuming operations. That guidance will be shared with the university this week for input and discussion. Similar to when we developed plans to limit operations, we will reverse the process and ask all units to develop plans to reopen their areas within the framework and health guidelines. There are many complexities in an organization as large as our university, and the goal is to have those with the most knowledge leading the process.

Provost Charles Taber will lead a team to develop plans for our academic offerings, with the understanding that a more responsive, agile approach is needed. There were many lessons learned from the conversion to remote learning in March, and we will apply them to our future operations.

Many other factors are being taken into consideration, including housing density on campuses for students and how to maintain safe distancing practices in high-traffic areas such as the Student Union, Hale Library and other gathering spots. Our researchers are understandably eager to get back to labs and other facilities to continue their great work, and we must also determine what adjustments must be made in those areas.

Thank you for the remarkable job of responding and adapting to these challenging times. As we proceed with thoughtful planning, please keep in mind the spirit of cooperation that shone so brightly as this pandemic unfolded. Our success so far has been built on collaboration and concern for each other. Continued success will rely on our collective ability to be flexible as we move forward with confidence and faith in our family.

Stay K-State Strong!

Richard B. Myers