TAMPA - Students at the University of Tampa return to class today under much difference circumstances than a regular school year.

UT has developed a plan called the Spartan Shield Health and Safety Plan to keep students, faculty and staff as safe as possible from Coronavirus.

What You Need To Know

  • University of Tampa begins classes with new safety protocols in place 

  • UT suspended some students for violating health guidelines

  • Students we talked with said they are trying to respect COVID rules

  • More Coronavirus headlines

Students began arriving back to campus in the past week to move in to housing and prepare for the new school year. 

The new safety plan includes:

  • A new mask requirement in all inside buildings​
  • Health Kiosks installed in key buildings for daily temperature checks
  • Classrooms rearranged for social distancing
  • Outdoor tents installed for classrooms and special events

Stephanie Russell Krebs, UT's VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said not only has the university made big changes on campus, but it also has contingencies in place in the event of any Coronavirus outbreaks either on or off campus.

“It’s definitely a completely different experience,” she said.

Despite new restrictions and rules on campus, the university in the past week was forced to suspend a number of students for breaking UT's zero tolerance policy for large social gatherings.

In her 23 years with the university, Krebs said she wouldn’t have imagined a year like this, where discipling students for socializing is a reality.

But the school was forced to suspend a number of students after a recent gathering in a residence hall, after students were warned multiple times not to hang out in large groups due to the pandemic.

When asked how challenging it is to prohibit social gatherings, Krebs said, “I think what we’re really trying to do is get students and faculty and staff to buy into our value statement.”

She says preventing Covid-19 from infecting UT is a group effort, and encourages students to socialize through a number of school-sanctioned events that follow CDC guidelines.

Students may not like it, but most are respecting it.

“I’m grateful that we’re able to be here at all,” said freshmen Helaina Teto.

“At least we’re here, because a lot of people didn’t even get to go back,” said freshmen Victoria DeLaurentis.

Because after months of quarantine, they say, being back at school makes all the “difference” in the world.

Due to “confidentiality and practicality,” the school would not disclose how many students were at the gathering, or how many students were suspended.​

Krebs also said the university has contingencies in place in the event of any Coronavirus outbreaks either on or off campus.

"We also have a leadership group that meets every morning to review anything that has changed int he last 24 hours wether locally federally or with our own campus," she said. "And so we are going to continue to monitor and be fluid with our decision making."

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