Inside look at planning underway to reopen public universities in Florida

Posted at 9:51 AM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 09:59:28-04

ESTERO, Fla -- When it comes to rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Fox 4 like to give you an inside look at the discussions happening behind-the-scenes, rather than just report once decisions are made.

As we've reported, public universities in Florida are set to reopen come the Fall semester. But the question now, is how? Those are the conversations happening right now among campus leaders at public universities across the state.

You'll recall late last month, the Board of Governors approved the State University System Blueprint for Reopening Campuses. Now, each university is going through the process of getting their individual plans approved by their Board of Trustees. Those will then be submitted to the Board of Governors on June 12.

Fox 4's Jessica Alpern spoke one-on-one with the board chair, who said that due to how different each university is, in size for example, a blanket reopening plan would not work. So instead, those individualized plans are in the process.

They're working out details like social distancing. Alpern asked about the challenges that brings, when we think about auditorium style classrooms.

"How do you sit down in a classroom staying six feet apart, so how many people can you actually put in that classroom? And then if you have a professor who is potentially over 65 years of age, or maybe has a compromised immune system, how do we keep that professor safe" explained Syd Kitson, chair of the Board of Governors.

Those are just some of the details being worked out right now.

Kitson says another focus is ensuring there's a plan in place to react quickly if something like a outbreak or even just one case occurs.

"How we test, we're spending a lot of time on the protocols there. And then contact tracing, which is so important, if in fact someone is found to be positive where do they go and how are they isolated? And even if they're isolated, they need to continue their studies and need to eat, they need to do all those things for those 14 days that they would be quarantined," said Kitson.

He added that safety will come first, but they also want to make sure they're able to deliver a great academic experience when schools reopen this Fall.

Following each university submitting plans by June 12, they will then present those plans to the board at UCF on June 23.

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