Colleges around the state are working on their plans to host classes on campus this fall. A few outlined their plans while discussing them with the Illinois Board of Higher Education Tuesday.
Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman is planning for the campus to be open when the fall session begins at the Charleston campus. There will be a couple of extra protective measures.
“We have a policy in place where everyone will have to wear a mask inside and outside on campus," said Glassman noting there will be just a few exceptions to that rule.
One of those will be inside dormitory rooms. The school will only offer single occupancy rooms this year, even though Glassman felt roommates are part of the socializing experience.
Other schools plan to offer blended experiences utilizing remote learning and some on campus courses. Gloria Gibson, President of Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, said she knows students have concerns about returning to campus.
“We have made it very clear that for our students to come back to campus, we must have a safe environment for them. So right now we are looking at perhaps some type of hybrid model for our students as we move forward,” she said.
One student who is fearful of a return to campus courses is Chicago State University senior Tina Scott.
“Colleges are social places. That means holding meetings, being together, hanging out, enjoying college life, but on campus I don’t see social distancing being practiced at all.”
The hybrid model of remote learning and on campus classes is how Judson University in Elgin will proceed. Gene Crume is president of the private religious school. He said that is already the model used at the university.
In East Peoria, Illinois Central College is the community college serving that region. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, the school’s president, expects more classes to be offered virtually, although certain courses such as labs will be offered on campus.
“So we never have more than 50 students on a given hallway one way in, one way out. So we can space them out,” said Quirk-Bailey.
Schools are waiting on formal recommendations from Governor J.B. Prtizker as to how to proceed. An IBHE committee has offered advice to the Governor on dealing with COVID-19 and how to safely re-open schools. The Governor's recommendations are expected to be made public soon.
The IBHE Board President and college presidents themselves are all making pitches for students to keep attending college. They have tried to discourage students from taking a gap year, fearing students that do will not come back to college. They are also trying to assuage fears of parents who may not want to spend tuition dollars on remote learning.
“Now more than ever, students need to stay the course… staying in school during these challenging times. No matter what, Illinois higher education is going to be open for business" said John Atkinson, the chairman of the IBHE.