TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's public universities will resume in-person classes in the fall, but only after implementing stringent restrictions designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, under the terms of reopening plans approved Tuesday by the State University System Board of Governors.
What You Need To Know
- Students, faculty required to wear masks
- Classroom occupancy will be cut by more than half
- Classes move online following Thanksgiving break
- University leaders can cancel in-person classes if coronavirus case counts rise
Each of the system's 12 campuses submitted an individualized plan to the board, with most sharing some key components. Students and faculty will be required to wear masks, classroom occupancy will be cut by more than half, and classes will move online after the Thanksgiving break.
"I want to create an atmosphere where our students come back and they understand that in order for us to stay in the position we're in, of having face-to-face classes, kids being back on campus, they've got to understand they have an individual responsibility," said Florida State President John Thrasher.
While FSU's mask mandate will be enforced under the threat of suspension and even expulsion, Thrasher told the Board of Governors he expects students will readily comply.
"It's more of a self-policing thing," he said. "I'm certainly not going to have mask police out there."
But university leaders do reserve the right to cancel in-person classes if coronavirus case counts indicate campuses would be at a heightened risk of outbreaks.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced it was revoking the liquor license of The Knight's Pub, a bar near the University of Central Florida where 13 employees tested positive for the virus. Contact tracing then identified 28 customers who had contracted the virus, underscoring its rapid spread in tightly-packed confined spaces.
The incident appeared to be on the minds of board members at Tuesday's meeting.
"All of our universities should be advising their students that they need to comport themselves when they're off campus the same way we expect them to do when they're on campus," said member Darlene Jordan.
Under the reopening plans, universities will also designate facilities to be used as coronavirus patient isolation wards. Planning for campus-wide outbreaks should be a central mission for administrators this summer, board member Eric Silagy said.
"I would encourage you to actually put together a little bit of a dry run, if you will, a drill of what happens if you end up with an outbreak on the campus," Silagy told Thrasher.
Sign up now for one of our newsletters that will show up in your inbox every weekday at 1 p.m. The newsletters highlight the most important stories of the day that you need to know for your area.