Plans are underway at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) to welcome students to the campus for the fall semester. In addition to starting a week early Monday, Aug. 17, changes will take place in learning options, health and safety, and campus operations.


“The health and wellness of our faculty, staff, and students are of the utmost importance as we make adjustments to our academic calendar,” said Robert Carr, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “Because we are living through a pandemic that is unpredictable, we elected to move our start of instruction date up one week and complete the semester on Nov. 25, 2020, right before the Thanksgiving break.”


Face-to-face instruction is expected to take place, however, a larger portion of courses will be offered in hybrid, online, or approved distance education format, according to a news release.


“We are working with faculty to enhance and create new and engaging curricula to maximize student learning and development,” said Carr. “In anticipation of this unique fall semester, every course in the catalog has a Blackboard shell and will be ready for web-based delivery just in case we have to migrate to a completely online format at any point during the semester.”


If conditions allow, fall commencement exercises will take place Saturday, Nov. 21. This may change based on guidance from state and federal agencies.


Health and safety protocols for persons on campus include the requirement to wear face coverings when in a public place, implementation of sanitation stations throughout campus, expanding technology capacity, flu vaccination, and temperature checks for students and employees, and reconfiguring of communal spaces to adhere to social distancing guidelines.


With the goal of keeping everyone on campus safe, sanitizers and shields are being installed at service areas throughout the campus. Appropriate cleaning and disinfection of desks and high-touch surfaces will occur throughout the day for classes, labs, and public areas between usage. Shuttle services are being modified to accommodate the ability to transport fewer passengers. Classrooms are also being assessed to determine the number of students that can occupy the room, with respect to CDC guidelines. Computer labs are being marked to determine the number of persons allowed to use the lab at the same time. Social distancing stickers will be placed throughout the campus to identify the required six-foot distance.


UAPB administrators are taking a proactive approach to COVID-19 exposure by implementing a multifaceted, integrated plan for surveillance, testing, and early warning. This includes components that will allow early identification of virus cases as a critical element to limit outbreaks.


“We will conduct daily monitoring and reporting of temperature and any onset of symptoms of faculty, staff, students, and visitors who are on campus,” said Carr. “We also strongly encourage self-monitoring and will provide temperature gauges.”


The Student Health Center will implement a system for electronic reporting and will include safeguards to protect personal data and privacy. If there are symptoms, diagnostic testing will be required. If the test is positive, consultation with a health care provider and isolation will be mandatory.


UAPB will continue to work closely with the Arkansas Department of Health for contact tracing. For any positive diagnostic test results, the protocols in place will be enacted and state reporting guidelines will be followed. A contact tracing team will also be in place to identify potential secondary cases to limit the spread of infection.


As an added measure, the campus community will be a part of comprehensive environmental monitoring. All employees will be asked to monitor wastewater, air quality, and high-touch surfaces in campus buildings. This early warning system can help identify areas of concern to help prevent additional outbreaks.


For more information about the return to campus plan, visit www.uapb.edu/covid19 or email academicaffairs@uapb.edu.