Delaware State University students will return to campus for fall semester

DOVER — Delaware State University’s campus will open for the fall, with thorough COVID-19 testing procedures in mind.

The university announced the plans for returning students to campus in its weekly Tuesday forum.

“When we thought about how we would reopen, we looked at all the trends across the country, what our sister institutions were doing, and what we knew to be the best practices from the scientists and the CDC,” said Delaware State University President Tony Allen during the forum. “And what we’ve come up with, to do that effectively, not only must we do it together, we must have a robust testing protocol.”

The university will partner with Testing for America, a nonprofit organization focused on COVID-19 testing.

“Our goal is to use testing as a tool to identify members of our campus community if they’re positive, so that we can quickly implement our COVID response measures on campus,” said LaKresha Moultrie, chief risk officer for the university. “That implementation includes treatment, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation when necessary, as well as cleaning and sanitizing.”

Blythe Adamson, of Testing for America, explained that the nonprofit assisted with developing a testing program and how to make testing possible on campus. The nonprofit will not be processing the tests, but will act as a consultant and has connected the university to a testing vendor. The partnership was facilitated in part via New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer contributing $100,000 in CARES Act funding to the initiative, according to a news release.

“One of the reasons why it’s so important that we test students this year is that in this age group of students, between ages 18 and 25, when someone becomes infected with this coronavirus, we’re expecting about 80% of those people to show no symptoms at all,” Dr. Adamson said.

“No fever, no cough and they might never know that they’re infected with it. But they’re still able, through their breath, to pass this virus through the air,” she continued. “By testing everyone, we’ll be able to find all those students who might never know that they were infected and we’ll be able to help prevent the further spread of this on campus, exposing professors who may be at higher risk because of their age, or having bad outcomes and prevent further spread in the community.”

Classes will begin Aug. 25, the university’s usual start, and will operate in a mix of hybrid in-person and digital learning. The semester will conclude Dec. 11.

“All students are strongly encouraged to remain on campus [until] the Thanksgiving break and then after Thanksgiving break, they will complete final exams in a remote format,” said Saundra DeLauder, provost of the university.

The first students to return to campus will be a “handful of aviation students,” according to a news release. The students return this week to catch up on flight time they lost last semester. The group will pilot the university’s testing process.

For courses that require face-to-face time, social distancing and protective equipment will be required. International students will take classes virtually. Standalone online courses have a different tuition structure, said Dr. DeLauder. Tuition for hybrid courses will not change for the semester.

“We do not expect the tuition model to change because faculty will be engaging you in a face-to-face format, or whether it’s physically face to face … or remote, [or] synchronous, meaning if they’re going to engage you as we’re engaging right now,” she said at the forum, which was hosted through WebEx.

Some programs — such as hospitality and tourism, nursing and K-12 — have field experiences tied in or lab research components. Research is expected to resume, and some face-to-face interaction is anticipated. Guidelines on PPE and capacity have been developed.

Density will be lowered in residence halls, with about 75% of the capacity in use for the upcoming year. Rooms will be set aside for students who test positive and must quarantine.

“We’re excited that we are able to have more students than we had originally anticipated,” said Stacy Downing, vice president of student affairs.

Wesley College will also rent residence hall space to the university, said President Bob Clark in a letter to campus. The partnership will begin over the summer for DSU’s fall athletes. He wrote that DSU is in need due to “housing shortages as a result of several variables including residence hall construction/upgrades taking place on their campus.”

“They have also asked for space during the academic year, and we are working through the details that will ensure space for the needs of both our institutions and the students we serve,” he continued.

In his letter, President Clark adds that students who have already selected rooms and paid deposits will not be affected.

At DSU, face coverings and social distancing will be enacted in common areas, classrooms, laboratories, work spaces and more. Campus facilities will have barriers installed in high-traffic areas, and there will be an enhanced cleaning schedule.

Many of the buildings will open with limited capacity for students, with access to the wellness and recreation center and the library.

“As we go through the semester, we’re working very diligently to make sure that we’re still able to provide many of the campus activities and services that you all have been accustomed to, with the twist,” she said.

Public events that utilize the campus will be limited this fall.

Students, faculty and staff will be required to sign a health and safety agreement for the university, which outlines those procedures. Those on campus will also complete COVID-19 safety training and daily health screenings to participate in on-campus activities, said Dr. Moultrie.

Several sports — football, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball — have preseason camp reporting dates at the end of the month.

DSU will postpone homecoming until April 23 and those graduating in the fall will have their commencement exercise in the spring, said Dr. Allen.

Other schools

The university is among several that have rolled out plans for the fall semester recently. Last week, Wilmington University announced that its fall semester would be online, while the University of Delaware presented its plans to bring students back until Thanksgiving break, at which point classes will become remote.

Additional plans for Wesley are forthcoming, but protocols and policies include phased move-in; pre-arrival screening; classroom and dining facilities equip for social distancing; and a hybrid educational model.

Goldey-Beacom College announced that it will bring students back to campus, with classes scheduled to begin Aug. 24, with a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction. The semester will end Nov. 24 — earlier than usual — for students to return home.

Delaware Technical Community College posted a note that plans for fall 2020 courses will be announced on or around Aug. 1.