FILE - University of Texas clock tower

The University of Texas Clock Tower on campus in Austin. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – The University of Texas at Austin will allow students to  return to campus in the fall, with a shortened semester ending at Thanksgiving break.

“The fall semester will begin as scheduled on August 26, and classes will run until Thanksgiving,” President Gregory Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell said in a statement.

“Students will not return after Thanksgiving and, instead, will participate in reading days and final exams remotely. With COVID-19 still expected to be active this fall, we hope to avoid the possibility of students becoming infected during the Thanksgiving break and then spreading the virus to classmates upon their return after Thanksgiving. We are still developing the details for how this new schedule will affect course syllabi, residence hall living and other key campus functions.”

Private institutions like Baylor, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Christian University also are planning to reopen.

While the past two months have been about shifting to remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus now is pivoting to what will happen in the future, Ray Martinez, deputy commissioner for Academic Affairs and Workforce Education with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), told The Center Square.

“We and other agency staff have been in close communication with our institutions of higher education, acting as a resource for them, responding in real time over the past eight weeks or so, as they had to very quickly shift to distance education or online modalities,” Martinez said.

“That was the response phase. We are now moving into reopening aspects of our campus operations. Because Texas is so vast, some counties have seen no COVID, and each institution has to decide how they’re going to plan for and safely reopen their campuses.”

While working with dozens of community colleges, public and private universities, the agency also provides some reopening updates online.

“We stay in close touch with the chancellors of the systems and the presidents of the institutions themselves about moving into the next phase,” Martinez said.

Additionally, a report on shows that a number of schools are adjusting admissions policies for incoming students facing challenges to complete standardized tests and other requirements.

“Everything is being addressed in a very meticulous and comprehensive way, with the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors first and foremost,” Martinez said.

“Second to that is how do we carry out academic instruction, athletics, dining and housing,” Martinez added. “Everything is revolving around how we reasonably and safely reopen.”

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