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University System of Georgia releases guidance for what fall semester may look like on college campuses

11Alive obtained a copy of the system's "Return to Campus Planning Framework," Tuesday.

ATHENS, Ga. — While the semester may have just ended for many, with college students across Georgia completing their classes online, universities are turning their attention to preparing for the fall. 

The University System of Georgia is giving students and staff a glimpse of what a return to class may look like for students in August in their "Return to Campus Planning Framework." 11Alive obtained a copy of the system's plan Tuesday.

The 29-page guidance outlines multiple scenarios for the fall semester, ranging from classes with limited social distancing expectations, to classes and operations being hosted online. 

"The future for the next months and possibly year(s) is uncertain due to COVID 19. This uncertainty will require robust planning, coupled with extreme flexibility," the University System of Georgia wrote. "We cannot predict what the circumstances will be for the start of the 2020 - 2021 academic year or during any part of the fall term; however, we can develop plans that account for some of the scenarios under which we might be asked to begin the fall term."

According to the University System of Georgia, its preference would be for all institutions to begin the fall semester face-to-face, writing that it is important that "they may engage in the full higher education experience, which we have all invested much time in developing."

RELATED: Georgia State, facing budget cuts and furloughs, predicts what learning could look like for fall semester

However, they added that they are working closely with the governor's office, the governor's task force and the Georgia Department of Public Health to make sure the "health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority."

As such, the guidelines account for three contingencies. 

  • Contingency Plan 1: Fall classes begin with social distancing expectations
  • Contingency Plan 2: Fall classes begin fully online
  • Contingency Plan 3: Classes and operations must go to an online format for a period of time during the semester

Under Contingency Plan 1, students, faculty and staff are expected to be brought back to campus in a "gradual and staggered return," which some universities have already announced will happen. Further, the goal would be to keep as much face-to-face experience intact while ensuring social distancing. Ways to accomplish this include flipping classrooms, moving to larger classrooms, providing alternate schedules for students within the class. As far as residence life goes, the University System of Georgia said it would ultimately be the responsibility of each student to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including cleaning and disinfecting their own rooms. 

RELATED: UGA planning 'gradual' and 'staggered' reopening of campus

Contingency Plan 2 and 3, each see classes and operations moving to an online format for a period of time, and are similar in approach. According to the University System of Georgia, the decision to move to online teaching would be made by the university system in close consultation with the governor's office; "no institution shall make the decision to move online on their own." Under this plan, the University System said institutions should plan for students to move into their residence halls and remain there whenever possible. 

Regardless of the scenario, the University System of Georgia said that each institution should develop a plan for testing, screening, contact tracing, isolation and notification.

While the University System of Georgia provided the framework, they said that each institution must prepare for disruptions in the fall semester due to the "fluid situation," and encouraged each to develop plans for eight major areas, including: 

1. Workplace and Health Safety

2. Academics Research

3. Public Service, Outreach, Continuing Education Cooperative Extension

4. Student Life

5. Enrollment Management

6. Athletics

7. Communications

8. Fiscal Impact

The group noted that they are likely not going to distribute additional funds to meet the needs to execute the plans, rather institutions should identify their needs and plan for a "redirection of funds."

Review the entire framework here

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.

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