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UK officials working on fall semester; committee devises four plans

Posted at 8:18 PM, May 14, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Officials at the University of Kentucky have been working tirelessly for the last several weeks on a plan to re-open the school in some form or fashion this August.

“Either we’re here, we’re delayed, we’re hybrid, or we’re still on-line,” said UK Public Relations whiz, Jay Blanton of the four contingencies that have been put into place. All of which he noted, can be easily swapped out for another, given the conditions three months from now.

In a perfect world, the university gets to welcome back its entire student body for the fall semester, but that is a pie in the sky scenario that cannot be counted on. So in lieu of being able to pull that off, the school is planning for scenarios which include a hybrid model. This would allow the university to bring some students back to campus, while others continue to receive online instruction. They could also go with shorter, eight-week semesters which would reduce the number of bodies in a given lecture hall or classroom.

As Blanton mentioned, delaying the start of the school year is possible, as is keeping everyone at home and continuing with this new status quo. What the school will not do is make a decision based on money, or a possible reduction in enrollment numbers.

“Sure that’s a concern,” Blanton said, “But it’s been our priority since this started to make finances come second. We’ve got to keep in mind the health, well-being and safety at all times. That’s the top priority, and we’re trying to design a process that allows us to do that."

Each plan contains detailed language about how the campus would be cleaned and disinfected if/when students are allowed to return. There’s also the need to consider testing everyone on campus for COVID-19, and contact tracing might also come into play.

“What do (those programs) look like,” Blanton wondered. “We’ve got to overlay that plan on top of the four plans we’re putting in place.”

The university has roughly 90 days to make a determination about the start of the 2020-2021 school year, and it could take almost every single one of those days to put a final plan into place.

"There are more unknowns than knowns, and that’s the world we’re in right now,” Blanton said. “We’re going to have to reinvent or reimagine normal.”