The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff is preparing to welcome students back this fall amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff is preparing to welcome students back this fall amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

As Arkansas continues to see an increase in numbers colleges around the state are implementing several steps in compliance with the Arkansas Department of Health to protect the health and safety of the students, faculty, and staff.

On March 11, out of an abundance of caution to protect their students, faculty and staff, UAPB moved classes online and restricted access to the campus. The following week they confirmed their first confirmed case with many more that followed.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is tracking more than 860 institutions’ plans, two-thirds of colleges are planning to welcome back students in person, while only 7% are planning to hold classes only online. Many other colleges have yet to make a decision.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, all system campuses of the University of Arkansas is planning for in-person education. The University of Arkansas System has 15 campuses and four other physical academic units, including the Division of Agriculture.

Donald R. Bobbitt, President of the University of Arkansas System and John Goodson, Chair on the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas System, released a memo last month with potential modifications and contingencies to the traditional academic calendar for the fall semester.

“Potential modifications include extending class periods and instructional days, eliminating traditional fall breaks, and planning for the potential of shifting to remote instruction after Thanksgiving in order to maximize instruction time while limiting the need for students, faculty and staff to travel and increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Bobbitt.

The Board passed a resolution directing the chancellors and chief executive officers of system institutions to work with appropriate campus constituencies to consider the modifications and contingencies.

The Board also discussed and delayed consideration of a resolution to require the use of cloth face coverings in institutional facilities when physical distancing is not possible, in accordance with public health guidance. Board members requested that the resolution be modified to specify stipulations regarding campus guests and to address participation in extracurricular activities such as athletics. A revised resolution will be considered at the next Board meeting in July.

The Board heard fall semester campus reopening updates from University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Chancellor Dr. Joe Steinmetz, University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College Chancellor Dr. Margaret Ellibee, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Dr. Laurence Alexander, and Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole.

The Board was impressed with the range, level and depth of the planning described by the chancellors, which included efforts to promote social distancing on campus through modified classroom layouts and scheduling, changes to food service protocols, and reductions to residence hall capacities, among other measures. Also discussed were the procurement of personal protective supplies for students, faculty and staff and the plans for handling potential cases of COVID-19 on campuses.

The Board will meet again on July 15 to continue oversight of the system response to the pandemic.

On Monday UAPB Chief of Staff Janet Broiles said face coverings would be required for all students and employees in indoor common areas on campus, effective immediately. Common areas included but were not limited to hallways, lobbies, stairwells, restrooms, dining halls, classrooms, fitness centers, and breakrooms.

“Employees are required to have a replacement mask on hand in the event the face-covering becomes wet or soiled,” said Broiles. “All employees are required to complete a daily self-screening before arriving at work.”

According to Broiles, if you answer yes to any of the questions on the self-screening questionnaire, employees must stay home, notify their supervisor and notify the UAPB/Human Resources response team.

“While these steps are not convenient for any of us, we want you to know that UAPB cares about its students, faculty, and staff and holds your well-being in high regard,” said Broiles in her memo. “We believe these steps will help reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to serve the educational needs of our students. Additional information on the distribution of PPE is forthcoming.”