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Longer Days, Shorter Semesters: How COVID-19 Will Change Campus Life at Kansas and Missouri Colleges

KU students will finish the fall semester before Thanksgiving this year. They’ll start the spring semester later and go straight through without a spring break. (Photo by J. Schafer)

Area Colleges Plan to Limit Classroom Capacity, Put New Restrictions on Dorm Life and End Fall Semester Early

By Elle Moxley, KCUR Radio

Colleges and universities in Kansas and Missouri are rolling out plans for the fall semester, which will look very different because of COVID-19. The University of Missouri-Kansas City plans to hold the majority of classes in-person but to limit class size to 25% of room capacity, a move that will require a longer school day. “We expect most students to have a schedule that combines in-person classes with some blended or online courses, unless they specifically request all online,” Provost Jenny Lundgren wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff.

Meanwhile the University of Kansas is shortening the academic calendar, pending approval from the Kansas Board of Regents. Students will start classes as scheduled August 24, but they’ll finish the fall semester before Thanksgiving break. The spring semester will be shorter, too – students will start classes two weeks later, on February 1, in lieu of spring break. Longer days will also be the norm at KU, which plans to schedule classes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the potential for Saturday classes as well.

Dorm life

KU is also staggering move-in dates in August “to reduce congestion and allow for physical distancing.” At UMKC, students won’t be able to have guests that don’t live in their residence hall, and they’re being asked to respect their roommates’ risk tolerance for having other people in the room. Furniture will be arranged to maximize space between roommates, and study lounges will be closed.

William Jewell College in Liberty has said that any student who wants to live alone to minimize exposure to COVID-19 will get a single room without having to pay a surcharge.

Kansas State University in Manhattan will prioritize single rooms for students with COVID-19 medical needs. K-State is also extending the cancellation deadline for students who cannot live safely on campus because they are in a high-risk category. “The shared living experience is an important opportunity for K-State students, and we want to make that experience possible in a way that prioritizes the health and wellness of our students,” said Thomas Lane, dean of students. At the same time, K-State is also assuring students they’ll get a partial refund if dorms have to close because of the coronavirus this fall.

Face masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone older than 2 wear a face mask to help protect others from respiratory droplets in case you’re sick but not showing symptoms yet. Widespread mask use could prevent a second wave of coronavirus this fall, NPR has reported. Right now, as part of a phased campus reopening, K-State is requiring individuals to wear masks in situations where six feet of physical distance can’t be maintained. 

KU will also require all faculty, staff, students and visitors, to wear masks on campus in the fall and has said that students will be asked to sign a social responsibility pledge that could include actions like wearing a mask and staying six feet apart. But because wearing face masks has become a political flashpoint, some college administrators at some colleges are reluctant to mandate them on campus. “We will be recommending, but not mandating, that everyone wear masks,” UMKC’s Lundgren wrote, adding that the university would install Plexiglas barriers to protect employees in high-traffic areas. 

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Elle Moxley is an education reporter for KCUR Radio.  Follow her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

 

 

 

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