If it’s “legally allowed and medically advisable” Loyola tentatively plans to offer a mix of on-campus and online classes this fall. But the semester may look a little different with potential changes to class times, classroom setting and the semester’s schedule, officials said.
If university officials decide to allow students back to school in the fall, students will finish in-person classes before Thanksgiving, according to Provost and Chief Academic Officer Norberto Grzywacz. When students go home for Thanksgiving they’ll stay home and finish the semester online — including final exams.
As Loyola continues to prepare for a possible on-campus experience, plans are contingent on Illinois reaching Phase 4 of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan for reopening the state. If the region doesn’t reach Phase 4 by the start of the school year, classes will be held online, according to the email sent to students June 10. The region is currently in Phase 3.
“The key thing for us is what happens in Illinois and Chicago,” Grzywacz told The Phoenix. “We depend on the state moving to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. We depend on Chicago allowing us to open [the] university.”
All indications are pointing to Illinois moving to Phase 4 after the Fourth of July said Grzywacz, who believes the university’s situation will be clearer by that time.
In the email, officials elaborated on potential plans to offer a hybrid of in-person and online classes. The announcement comes 12 days after the university announced a format of in-person and online classes was under consideration, the Phoenix reported.
All classes would follow social distancing guidelines — such as staying six-feet apart — so some classes wouldn’t be held in a usual classroom setting, according to the email. Instead, the university plans to use spaces such as the Sister Jean Multipurpose Room and Damen Den in the Damen Student Center and rooms in the Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics.
“We need to plan how many courses we can give,” Grzywacz said. “We need to think in terms of the classrooms that are available and the times of the day that we can have classes and social distancing, staggering times so that people don’t bunch up in stairways, elevators and halls. There’s a logistical nightmare there we have to handle.”
If classes are held both online and in-person as planned, departments and schools will decide which classes are held in each format, according to Grzywacz.
The decision could be made on a multitude of factors, but Grzywacz said faculty members might want to teach their classes online because they have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Others who may not be comfortable coming onto campus may elect to teach from their homes.
The ultimate goal is to minimize situations in which students are in close proximity with each other, according to Grzywacz, but the university still wants to offer some sort of on-campus experience. While the details aren’t finalized, there are some plans to make face-to-face classes feasible, he said.
Grzywacz said the plan is to have first-year students take about four of their classes in-person with the remaining online. For sophomores, juniors and seniors the university is aiming for them to have three face-to-face classes.
In addition to the use of non-traditional classrooms, there may be changes to the time grid of classes to reduce crowding on campus, according to Grzywacz.
The email said the “passing period” between classes will be extended to 30 minutes instead of its usual 15, the email said. Classes will also start earlier in the day and end later in the afternoon. The administration is also nixing the two evening classes usually offered for one evening session per day from 5:30-8 p.m.
Grzywacz said the new time grid is just to give an initial idea of what schedules could look like, meaning schedules could change again after an official decision on the Fall 2020 format is made. He also mentioned there’s a possibility for the staggering of classes, meaning not every class will happen within the same grid. The university will decide on official plans after they decide if students can come back to campus, he said.
Course registration access is closed June 10 to June 21 so these class changes can be made on LOCUS — Loyola’s student portal. On June 22, students will be able to view their schedules and work with academic advisors through any changes made.
Continuing students who have already enrolled in classes will have the ability to correct their schedules first, according to Grzywacz. First-years will register for classes a week later, he said.
Grzywacz said the university is also preparing for the possibility of having to close down campus again if there were to be another wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. He said a second wave of the virus is forecasted for late November, so university officials are designing the academic year to plan for a second wave.
Other changes to help keep students safe if an on-campus experience is possible include requiring all students and faculty to wear masks in classrooms, frequent cleaning of classrooms and high-touch areas and reminders to thoroughly wash hands and maintain social distance, according to the email.
University officials haven’t decided if students will be required to undergo COVID-19 screening upon moving back to campus. However, the university plans to have tests available on campus and are currently developing a plan for contact tracing, according to Grzywacz.
In addition, they plan to have materials available for the students including masks, gloves and other supplies that may be necessary to enforce safety.