ETSU releases plans detailing students returning to campus for fall semester

Reopening The Region

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University has released details on the university’s plans to operate going forward during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Future Operations Workgroup has met to create plans for campus operations in the fall, according to a release from ETSU President Brian Noland.

The workgroup has designated four stages to the campus reopening.

“Some courses that meet traditionally in the classes there may be a blend of video teaching, small group exercises,” ETSU chief communications officer, Joe Smith said. “Throughout this time, we will continue to encourage physical distancing and other appropriate safety precautions.”

Stage 1 is the most restrictive, limiting all teaching to online classes and requiring that the majority of the staff work remotely. Since March, ETSU has been operating along Stage 1 guidelines.

The release says the campus has recently shifted to Stage 2, which eases some restrictions and will likely remain in place through June.

During Stage 2, ETSU employees begin the transition back to campus, and a soft opening of campus starts June 15.

Summer courses will remain online, but preparations will be made to welcome the public back on July 1.

ETSU hopes to transition to Stage 3 at the start of the fall semester, during which face-to-face instruction will resume whenever possible.

During Stage 3, students will be allowed to live on campus while following a Residence Life Operations Plan. According to the plan, “All Individuals must use face coverings when on campus.”

Stage 4, dubbed the “New Normal,” features some small-scale restrictions but allows large university events, athletic competitions and domestic and international travel.

“As we’ve known throughout this pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty and I think we are continuing to move into uncertain times. That’s the great thing about this plan is that if we need to make changes, we’ll do that,” Smith said.

You can read full details on all the stages by clicking here.

Stage 3 also mandates the following, per the workgroup’s recommendations:

Employees and Offices
• Employees working both remotely and on campus, options in place for staffing
rotations in offices to maintain physical distancing expectations.
• Flexibility is provided for employees who may need to work remotely (e.g.,
individuals who identify themselves or immediate family members to be at high risk
as defined by the CDC). Supervisors should work with employees to explore options
to allow them to work remotely.
• Clinical faculty and staff are working in ETSU Health locations that remain open to
provide patient care. Decisions about opening or closing ETSU Health clinical
locations should be made in conjunction with the Vice President for Clinical Affairs.
• Offices open with options for extended hours to provide flexibility for service and
optional staffing rotations.
• Student APS workers, Federal Work Study (FWS) workers, and Regular Work Study
(RWS) recipients working.
• Outgoing university-related domestic travel is suspended including travel for
participation in conferences, symposia, and other events. Travel by vehicle within
the region (typically covered by blanket travel authorizations) for reaching ETSU sites
is permitted. Other regional travel, which may include local visits to donors by
advancement staff or university officials required to attend state meetings in
Nashville or other locations, is permitted with prior authorization by the appropriate
vice president. Limited exceptions for other domestic travel may be authorized by
the appropriate vice president.
• All outgoing university-related international travel is suspended.
• All Study Abroad and other international programs for ETSU students are suspended.
• Recommendation for personal travel and international students traveling to ETSU is
to follow the most current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and other appropriate federal agencies.
Academic Instruction
• Faculty will identify courses, competencies, or experiences that can only be acquired
in a face-to-face setting. These courses, competencies and experiences will be the
first priority for using classroom, teaching labs and other on-ground resources.
Special physical distancing measures and occupancy limits must be used for these
courses, competencies and experiences to minimize the spread of droplets.
• Faculty should consider adopting discipline specific guidelines provided by
professional organizations, colleagues, or other experts that are relevant to the
particular instructional setting.
• All other academic material will be offered in a hybrid format, to assure all students
have an opportunity for both on-line and on-ground learning. Achieving a direct
faculty-to-student interface, wherever possible, should be a priority, even if this
cannot happen at every regularly scheduled class session.
• Every classroom will have limited physical occupancy in order to adhere to physical
distancing requirements. Students must not be seated closer than six feet from
another student. Attendance in class sessions must be adjusted to permit this
physical distancing.
• Faculty should be flexible in their approach to using the limited classroom space in a
way that works best for the specific course. For example, one approach is to provide
all course lectures via D2L with classroom sessions reserved for in-depth discussion
of material for smaller groups of students.
• Because of the occupancy limits, not all students may be able to attend every course
session. Each course should have a plan for an equitable rotation schedule for
students desiring to attend face-to-face sessions.
• Many classrooms do not have the ability to provide high-quality, real-time broadcast
of live classroom activities to students in remote settings using Zoom. Thus, each
course should plan for providing students not in class with materials asynchronously.
For example, lecture capture recordings of the class session can be posted to D2L.
• Classroom exit strategies are employed for all classrooms with faculty dismissing
sections of the classroom in phases during the last 5 minutes of scheduled class
• Classroom entrance strategies include students wiping down their desk as they enter
the classroom with provided sanitizing wipe.
• Laboratory and on campus experiential courses are permitted with physical
distancing and other sanitation measures.
• Department Chairs and College Deans should work with faculty to set common
expectations across the department and college to address the limitations imposed
by physical distancing and remote instruction.
• Experiential learning in the community possible on a program by program basis in
partnership with community sites with approval by the college dean (clinical
rotations, internships, externships, service learning).
• The Testing Center in the Sherrod Library is open and able to provide exam services
with physical distancing parameters.
• University School must operate within the guidelines of its pandemic operations
• Laboratory and field research activities permitted.
• Graduate and undergraduate students are permitted to participate in research
• Student or faculty research projects requiring access to community sites including
local schools, health facilities or other comparable sites may face additional
restrictions, including a limit on the number of ETSU personnel allowed to enter the
campus or clinic. The department or college may need to prioritize projects that
require such access.
• All lab personnel should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE),
including masks (need not be medical masks, any face covering (double-ply) would
suffice), reusable eye protection and gloves while working in the labs. Individuals
working at off-campus field sites should wear PPE appropriate for working
conditions and practice physical distancing.
• Physical distancing should be practiced as much as possible; hand washing and other
hygienic practices implemented as appropriate.
• It is recommended that research lab meetings be conducted with physical distancing
measures in place, preferably via zoom, to limit interactions.
• COVID-19 research studies are permitted proceed with requirements for PPE use by
investigators and subjects.
• Other research procedures involving person-to-person interaction are permitted
with the requirement of appropriate PPE use by the investigator and subjects.
• Specific guidelines and detailed information about research activities, operations,
awards, and IRB are provided on the ORSPA website.
• As detailed in the Department of Athletics’ operations plan, team activities including
meetings, strength and conditioning sessions, and practices may occur on a modified
schedule in accordance with guidelines issued by the NCAA and Southern
• Any event that would include spectators requires an event safety plan approved
prior to the event.
Residence Halls and Dining Services
• Residence halls occupied with significant efforts to limit face-to-face exposure
according to the Residence Life operations plan.
• Safety plan is used for move-in period to facilitate physical distancing.
• Dining hall open with other expanded dining areas available in the Culp Center to
permit maintenance of social distancing.
• Dining hall limits self-serve options for patrons.
• Grab and go meal options are available.
• Isolation plans in place for students who test positive or are in quarantine because
of exposure.
Student Life and Campus Services
• Student support services are encouraged to be provided via remote connection, to
the extent possible, including tutoring, Disability Services, academic advising,
Financial Aid, and the Counseling Center.
• Sherrod Library is open to faculty, staff, and students with physical distancing
measures in place. All individuals are encouraged to use services and collections
available online.
• Culp Center open with physical distancing measures in place.
• Basler Center for Physical Activity/CPA open with limited operations and physical
distancing and enhanced sanitation measures in place.
• Intramural Activities and Club Sports offering modified programs with physical
distancing measures in place.
• Farmer’s Market operating with physical distancing measures in place.
• BucShot operating with reduced riding capacity and physical distancing measures in
• Affiliated student organizations must adhere to stage 3 parameters for both on and
off campus functions.
• Student organization tents may be allowed on campus with physical distancing
measures in place.
• Childcare facilities operating on a limited basis to adhere to physical distancing and
other safety measures.
Visitors to Campus
• Large university events with more than 50 people would require an event safety
plan with prior approval needed.
• Festivals, camps, and conferences operate on a limited basis providing for physical
distancing and limited enrollment. Organizers must present a safety plan for
Safety, Health, and Security
• All individuals must use appropriate face coverings on campus when around others.
• Heightened cleaning of academic spaces and other public spaces.
• Avoid holding large meetings or social gatherings. While university events with
greater than 50 people may be held with approved event safety plans, individuals
should refrain from routinely holding large meetings or social gatherings up to that
limit if such activities can be facilitated using Zoom or other technology.
• Use Zoom to facilitate meetings and remote services employees and students.
• Crowd control and waiting line measures in place to promote physical distancing
(plexiglass at select service windows, spaced marks on floors).
• University Health Center open with telehealth appointments available.
• Clinical faculty and staff working with patients should follow specific protocols and
procedures provided by ETSU Health clinical leadership.
Stage 3 Considerations
• Transitioning from Stage 2 to Stage 3 would presumably coincide with the start of an
academic term. This decision would need to be announced many weeks prior to the
start of the academic term.
• Departments and units should be mindful of the need for planning for continuity of
services should faculty or staff become ill.
• Limitations on travel and other demands imposed with instruction changes will likely
impact faculty members’ progression for promotion and/or tenure. Special
consideration may be needed for how to address these issues.
• Availability of technology in classrooms to accommodate Zoom or Tegrity recording (or
Tegrity replacement).
• Departments and faculty should consider how to best support faculty in the hybrid faceto-face and remote instruction environment.
• Consider graduate assistant availability to accommodate more lab sections with fewer
students and/or tutorial sections.
• Altered trash collection may be needed on campus, especially in areas that may collect
trash from the dining hall.
Stage 3 Needed Actions
• The appropriate department chairs and deans must collaboratively develop the plans for
the special physical distancing and other sanitation measures and occupancy limits that
must be used in instructional spaces.
• Each department and unit office updates its plan to provide for decreased staffing
density in order to accommodate physical distancing expectations.
• CPA staff develops operation guidelines addressing physical distancing and enhanced
• Facilities Management creates a plan to assist departments and units with serviceoriented spaces in the Sherrod Library, Culp Center, and select other campus locations
in evaluating and installing plastic or plexiglass shields at select service widows or desks.
• Facilities Management creates a plan for increased custodial cleaning services in public
• Department of Athletics updates its operations plan with guidelines and procedures for
team activities and student athlete expectations consistent with the university’s
operating stage in the context of NCAA and Southern Conference directives.
• Sherrod Library updates operating guidelines.
• Culp Center updates operating guidelines.
• Residence Life updates housing policies and contracts as necessary.
• Residence Life updates operating guidelines including isolation and quarantine plans.
• Residence Life creates or updates its resident move in plan to ensure physical
• Dining Services updates its operating guidelines.
• The event safety plan protocol must be updated to consider physical distancing
requirements in review of plans for campus and athletic events.
• The Testing Center should develop operating guidelines to provide for physical
• The University School updates its pandemic operations plan.
• A communication plan is coordinated through University Relations on how the
university is transitioning to this stage.

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