JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Some experts say the return to normal could take a few years, but colleges and universities believe that timeline is a bit shorter.
East Tennessee State University announced it will begin transitioning to the next phase of operating procedures within the next four weeks, Tuesday afternoon.
On May 15, big changes are coming to the ETSU campus. University officials announced the majority of its academic instruction for fall 2021 will be in-person and students will return to dorms.
Regardless of vaccine status, the current face-covering policy will remain in effect.
“This year has been painful. We’ve missed one another, we’ve missed celebrating the campus,” ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said.
This fall, all ten of the university’s residence halls are expected to return to full capacity including those which had been used for students in isolation or quarantine. Noland encourages anyone who is comfortable with receiving the COVID-19 vaccine to get one soon.
“The more individuals on this campus who are vaccinated, the lesser the probability that someone will contract COVID-19 and experience significant complications and symptoms,” Noland said.
During ETSU’s Modified Stage 4 Plan, you can expect to see student life return to close to normal when students return from summer break. Most classes will take place in-person, and staff and faculty will primarily work on campus.
“We will be releasing, within the next month and a half or so, an updated remote work policy that provides some latitude to supervisors and employees as appropriate to afford those options. Not all employees by virtue of their job responsibility have those options,” Noland said.
However, as the campus of ETSU transitions to a close-to-normal campus life, university officials say everyone will still adhere to appropriate physical distancing guidelines throughout campus.
“Just as we’ve adjusted to the landscape of COVID-19, we’ll continue to do so moving forward, but the best thing that we all can do to keep ourselves and one another safe is wear our mask, wash our hands, practice social distancing,” Noland said.
The university plans to provide resources to those who may be struggling with the transition to Modified Stage 4.
University officials also say domestic travel will be allowed starting May 15, and international travel will be allowed after June 15. Sports competitions will still follow guidelines issued by the NCAA and the Southern Conference.
A complete timeline of ETSU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.