University System of Md. Plans ‘Hybrid’ Fall Semester

    The University System of Maryland announced Friday that students will return to campus this fall “in a hybrid fashion,” combining some on-campus, in-person instruction with remote learning.

    The umbrella organization for the 12 USM institutions said each campus will, in about two weeks, provide an early overview of how they intend to accommodate students this fall. Each campus plan will follow general guidelines and critical factors determined by the Return to Campus Advisory Group appointed by USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman in April — including federal, state, and local public health guidance.

    “I’m grateful for the thoughtful guidance the advisory group continues to provide,” Perman said in a statement. “I’ve said many times that USM institutions are incredibly diverse. Having university-based leaders on this group who understand that diversity — who can drill down into the implications of what each return-to-campus decision means for each university — is essential to good planning.”

    In a statement, USM said that each campus will identify specific decision points as they develop timelines for the start and end of the fall semester. For example, some student cohorts — such as those majoring in certain health professions — will begin the semester as early as July. However, most students enrolled at residential universities will begin the semester in mid- to late August. Some institutions will end in-person instruction by Thanksgiving, while others—depending on local health conditions—may complete the term at the traditional time.

    Other decision points will factor in the number of residential students versus remote students at each institution; whether, when, and how athletics may resume; and guidelines governing other campus events.

    All institutions are taking steps to reduce the density of students in campus housing, decreasing room occupancy to the extent possible, the university system said. Most universities are prohibiting or limiting the use of community spaces in residence halls, such as kitchens and lounges. Universities are modifying food service options to lower density in dining halls and achieve physical distancing. For instance, several universities will offer students grab-and-go meals.

    All USM institutions have decided to postpone study abroad programs through the fall semester.

    “The pandemic presents obstacles being felt throughout higher education,” said USM Board of Regents Chairwoman Linda Gooden. “Our universities are committed to offering the best academic experience possible for our students, while maintaining health and well-being throughout the system.”

    Each university will comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations, and will have in place certain critical safeguards, including the ability to:

    • Obtain necessary PPE, testing kits, and other materials.
    • Assess and monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms among students, faculty, and staff.
    • Assist students, faculty, and staff with securing COVID-19 testing and treatment.
    • Isolate residential students who contract the disease and quarantine those who are exposed to it.
    • Coordinate contact tracing in conjunction with local health departments.
    • Reduce density on campus, and enforce physical distancing in classrooms, residence halls, and dining halls.
    • Clean campus buildings thoroughly and frequently, with an emphasis on high-touch surfaces.
    • Continually review the effectiveness of these and other safety measures.

    The USM system said that each university will determine how to accommodate students, faculty, and staff who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and who choose not to return to campus.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.