Preparing for Fall 2020: Georgia College set for students’ return to campus

Preparing for Fall 2020: Georgia College set for students’ return to campus

C ampus leaders, faculty and staff are working to ensure the safest environment is in place to continue the high-quality learning environment expected at the university. However due to the on-going impact of the global pandemic, life at Georgia College will look a little different this fall semester.

Classrooms have been reconfigured for social distancing.
Classrooms have been reconfigured for social distancing.

“As we return this fall, we will do so in ways that are consistent with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and the directives and guidance that we received from the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH),” said Georgia College President Dr. Steve Dorman. 

“Clearly this is not business as usual,” said Dorman, “but know that we are doing all that we possibly can to ensure the health and safety of everyone on campus.” 

From reconfiguring classrooms to enhanced cleaning and increased technology in classrooms, the summer months have been spent preparing for the return of students—both in-person and via online platforms. 

“Although these are unprecedented and very challenging times for all of us, Georgia College will continue to deliver high-quality academic programs with the same amount of rigor and richness that they would normally expect,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Costas Spirou.

The academic calendar has been amended with classes beginning Aug. 12. Classes will end on Nov. 24, before Thanksgiving Break. Final examinations will take place online, and there will be no Fall Break. 

“The goal of these changes is to ensure learning continues, while limiting the potential spread of COVID-19 by reducing travel to and from campus,” said Dorman. 

Technology has been added to classrooms for some hybrid delivery courses.
Technology has been added to classrooms for some hybrid delivery courses.

Learning spaces have been reconfigured to ensure social distancing guidelines are being met for face-to-face instruction. For hybrid delivery courses, classrooms and labs have been equipped with technology including cameras to provide instructors with the ability to transmit the course content online and document cameras to provide faculty an additional option to support their instructional goals. 

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has worked closely with faculty across campus guiding them on technology integration, tools to support student learning and ways to reimagine their courses. The team has held training webinars and continues to provide support in hybrid and online learning course development. 

"Our team has been able to work with several units across campus to provide updated training and information to instructors as they prepare for the upcoming fall 2020 semester," said Dr. Jim Berger, director of CTL. "The collaborations between the Center for Teaching and Learning and Information Technology have highlighted the level of preparedness of the institution and the support for faculty as we all face the daunting task of teaching during times of COVID-19. 

"Our joint efforts will ensure that faculty have access to several tools, webinars, programs, communications  and resources that will help them be successful in their teaching during these unprecedented times," Berger said. 

Outside the classroom, the Division of Student Life is working to help students stay active and engaged in the community. They’ve created a “Campus Coach Connections” program to help both new and returning students transition to campus life.  

Throughout the summer, Campus Coaches engaged with new students on a weekly basis to connect them to co-curricular programs and services as well as with other Bobcats. At the start of the fall semester, Campus Coaches will work with returning students to help ensure a smooth transition back to campus. All offices and services related to student affairs are open, with social distancing measures in place.

“In normal times, Student Life coordinates a host of face-to-face programs and services in order to help provide our students with an outstanding co-curricular experience,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Shawn Brooks. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we do things, we are poised and ready to continue to administer a robust co-curricular experience for students.”

Student Health Services will utilize telemedicine to provide students care in a socially distant manner. If any student needs to visit the clinic in-person, they can call to speak to a Student Health staff member and schedule an appointment. Also, the Wellness Center will remain open for students only, with a number of preventative measures in place. 

Floor markings urge social distancing.
Floor markings urge social distancing.

With the safety of the campus community as the highest concern, more frequent cleaning will take place in high-traffic areas. Common spaces have been reconfigured to ensure social distancing. Hand sanitizer dispensers and social distance markings are now in strategic areas of campus to minimize the density of people in these areas.

Key areas including Dining Services have a number of precautions in place. For instance, the MAX will be open and will limit the number of patrons in the facility at a given time. Seating areas in The MAX have also been physically reconfigured to ensure spatial distancing is maintained.

“Our team is looking into numerous innovative ways to keep all the stations open and still provide a large selection of options for students to choose from with regards to available dining,” said Greg Brown, director of Auxiliary Services.

“As students return, they will definitely see some of the same practices used at The MAX that they might have seen in restaurants at home,” said Brown. “Things like social distance stickers indicating the safe distance to follow, self-serve areas becoming served and more disposable service items are just some of the changes we have had to make.” 

Changes are also being made to our bus routes and schedules, along with buses being cleaned more often. All riders will be required to wear a mask and will be asked to space themselves out on the buses. 

For more details on the fall 2020 plan as well as FAQs, campus service availability and on-campus housing information, visit https://www.gcsu.edu/return.