COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The University of Missouri will require students and employees to wear a mask in classrooms in the fall as a way to fight the spread of COVID-19, the university said Monday.
In a message to students and staff, MU administrators said the use of masks will be encouraged but not required in indoor open areas, as well. Workers in offices where 6 feet of distance between people is achievable will not be required to wear face coverings.
Students and employees are expected to bring their own face coverings and sanitation supplies, according to the email. Staff will wear clear face shields in order to project, and for students who may need to read lips.
The university will have a limited supply of masks for faculty or students who forget to bring one.
MU will require that face coverings also be worn any time that maintaining 6 feet of distance is not possible and people are together for more than 15 minutes. Requirements could change, according to the email.
"Our policies regarding face coverings will adjust according to any changes in local public health requirements and guidance," the message said.
Columbia's health officials are working on mask requirements in public, following the lead of cities such as Kansas City. The mandates are being implemented or considered after a surge in cases nationwide and in Missouri which has set multiple daily records.
On top of wearing masks, class sizes and classrooms will also probably be different in the fall.
Faculty will mark seats that are not to be used, and when possible there will be one door to enter and one to exit.
In order to implement social distancing, some classes will be fully online, some will be blended, and others will remain completely in-person, but could be held in larger rooms.
"We're looking at other options, such as the entire class may be a lecture, a large lecture, is online and then the discussion sections for that lecture which are typically much smaller meet in person," University spokesman Christian Basi said.
Staff is still working to figure out exactly what each course will look like.
Students will stay enrolled in the courses they have chosen, but the location and way the class is offered may change.
Basi said there may be more sections of certain classes or other alternatives to be sure student's graduation dates will not be impacted. He said flexibility will be the key to making it work.
"So it may be that, instead of taking this particular required class, you take a different required class this semester and you wait until next semester to take the same required class. You know, you're just doing a switch," he said. "Or it could be that you're taking a certain elective, and it may be a different elective than what you had planned on, but it will still work for your degree, it's close to what you wanted to take, and your graduation date is not changed in any way, shape or form."
MU said the student health center will test any students who have COVID-19 symptoms. The university has set aside isolation housing on campus for those who test positive and close contacts of positive cases.
Students are also being asked to limit their contact with others for two weeks before returning to campus in the fall. Classes begin Aug. 24.
"We know we have students coming in from all areas of the country and so it's very helpful for us, for their fellow classmates, if they are able to isolate themselves as much as possible and not go into areas where there are large public gatherings for two to three weeks before they come to school," Basi said.
If a student who lives on campus tests positive for COVID-19 they will be moved into a facility to isolate.
"We have services set up so they will receive dining services whenever they need it. We will also make sure that the police are aware of where they're at for safety and security purposes, and we'll be working with their professors to make sure that they are able to continue their academic studies," Basi said.
The move-in to campus housing is also being spaced out and students are required to complete move-in within a 90-minute time slot to reduce contact between students. Students living on campus will have to arrive with a face covering, thermometer, hand sanitizer and cleaning products for their rooms, the university said.
Students will be able to have two people help them move in.
No more than 10 students will be able to move into a facility during a given time slot.
Recruitment for greek life at the University of Missouri will be different this fall than previous years. Rush could be combined to include in-person and virtual recruitment.
"The greek properties specifically are not university property so some of those decisions being made inside the actual greek houses are left up to the greek organizations, and they need to make the best decisions for their safety," Basi said.
The university is working closely with sororities and fraternities to make sure events held on campus are safe and limit potential exposure to the virus.