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'A new and different experience': Kentucky State University looking ahead to fall semester

Posted at 1:32 PM, May 28, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — In a year unlike any other, we are now entering a summer full of more questions than answers.

Universities and colleges are now on the clock as May comes to a close.

What will universities do for the fall semester? Will dorms be open? How many students, if any, will be allowed on campus? Will sports happen? What does the calendar look like?

When the pandemic hit the state of Kentucky in March, most KSU students were not on campus. They were gone on spring break, and they never returned in full. Instead, faculty and staff revamped their curriculum to finish the semester virtually.

Through a socially distant, virtual setting, KSU recently wrapped up the final quarter of the spring semester.

President M. Christopher Brown is proud of the faculty's work and students' commitment but now has to say goodbye to the class of 2020.

"I call them the quarantine class. There's been no class like it before in the history of the institution," said Dr. Brown.

The pandemic has canceled decade-old traditions, but he's holding out hope for in-person graduation later this year.

"And so it's a unique group, so they should be celebrated. I do feel badly for them," said Dr. Brown.

As the farewell to the quarantine class remains in the air, Dr. Brown looks ahead to the coming school year. The campus is currently open to essential employees and resources, but summer school will be conducted online.

As for the fall, the school is preparing for several options, including the return of several students.

"The reality is there will be a student footprint on the campus for the fall, whether or not that's freshmen-only freshmen and sophomore only, and what the level of hybrid and virtual instruction is, will be yet to be decided," said Dr. Brown.

No matter what happens with science and the virus, KSU is not immune to the economic impact of COVID-19.

Last week, Dr. Brown presented a plan to cut 9.6% of the university's operating budget, which is about $4.6 million.

"We'll begin the sad and unfortunate task of releasing some of the positions that are not tele-communicable," said Dr. Brown.

Whenever students and faculty do return to Frankfort, it won't be the same KSU. Signs of the new normal are already present inside academic buildings.

There are lines marked with six-foot distances and hand sanitizer at almost every corner.

If dorms are open, Dr. Brown says capacity will be no more than 75%.

Dr. Brown is hopeful the fall will bring some sense of the old normal, too, starting with Frankfort Day. That's when the community traditionally gathers to celebrate the first Thorobreds game of the year.

"There's a convening function that athletic events have about bringing people together from all walks of life to celebrate and share a common experience," said Dr. Brown.

KSU is deep within the fabric of Frankfort and is committed to helping in the community through programs, including agriculture.

The historically black university was established in 1886. KSU has survived and thrived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the 1918 influenza outbreak.

Now, Dr. Brown says the university is poised to rebound from this pandemic, continue contributing to the future of the commonwealth and welcome the class of 2024.

"Certainly going to be a new and different experience, but we'll be able to do it together. And it'll be something that no one has ever done before," said Dr. Brown.

Access to campus is still restricted, but some students still have items left in dorms from the spring semester.

Dr. Brown says now that grades are wrapping up, the school is putting together a plan for students to safely return briefly in four-hour windows to clear out the dorms.

He says updates on information and forms are on the campus portal.