Bucs are Back: ETSU provides update on reopening plans for fall semester

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — It is a new reality for East Tennessee State University: the requirements for social distancing and wearing masks.

University officials revealed new guidelines Friday morning in a virtual town hall ahead of the fall semester.

To help in keeping the campus safe for everyone who calls ETSU home, university officials have required face coverings to be worn throughout campus and where social distancing cannot be maintained.

In a Zoom town hall meeting, ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said if a non-exempt student is not wearing a mask on campus a disposable one will be provided for the student to wear.

If a student refuses to wear a face-covering in a classroom, the instructor has the ability to have the student leave the classroom.

Classroom options range from in-person to online to a hybrid of the two.

Social distancing will be heavily encouraged and equipment will be spaced out throughout campus.

There will also be changes to course locations and class formats to encourage social distancing.

However, before anyone arrives on campus, a COVID-19 health training and safety pledge will be conducted to that everyone is in the know about how to stay safe.

Noland said school officials will limit the number of students in classrooms.

“Classes that here to for, may have had a capacity of 30, now have a capacity let’s say of five,” Noland said.

He is confident in the way the school will provide peace of mind to students while attending school during a pandemic.

“Our public areas will have socially distant seating,” ETSU Vice President for Student Life and Enrollment Dr. Joe Sherlin said.

“There will be opportunities for students that have hybrid instruction,” said Dr. Wilson Bishop, senior vice president for academics and interim provost. “We know that some students are not going to feel comfortable coming back to campus but we want them to enroll in their courses anyway.”

COVID-19 tests are not mandatory for students returning to campus, however, if a student who lives in the resident hall tests positive for coronavirus, ETSU has a protocol in place for that.

“We have set aside entire buildings for students who test positive or are awaiting the results of tests. We have structured services for students so that there will be meal delivery, service delivery, daily check-ups,” Dr. Noland said.

ETSU senior Haley Mullins is looking forward to returning to campus.

“I’m really just looking forward to being back. I love Johnson City,” Mullins said. “I’m just really excited to get that community back.”

The advertising and public relations major is involved in various organizations like Kappa Delta Sorority, a Sigma Chi Fraternity sweetheart, and part of the strategic media club and Buctainment. She has been working to create a virtual and user-friendly program for students returning to campus.

She believes university officials will create an environment that will fulfill their educational needs, while staying safe from COVID-19.

“This is a new virus. No one’s really got all the answers, but I know he’s[Dr. Noland] doing his best. I know the faculty and staff are doing their best to put our safety and our health first,” Mullins said.

As of right now, Mullins said all but one of her classes are online.

“A lot of students are apprehensive about taking online classes and I know the experience, especially coming in as a freshman, but I’ve taken them before and you learn a lot about yourself, your study habits,” she said.

Many have asked about the decisions for sports in the Southern Conference. Dr. Noland said the discussion for fall sports with the council of presidents for the SoCon was delayed to next week.

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