Ohio State will hold in-person classes on a modified schedule this fall.
The fall semester will begin on its originally scheduled date of Aug. 25 and end Dec. 4, but the last day of in-person classes will be Nov. 25 (one day before Thanksgiving), Ohio State president Michael Drake announced during Wednesday's Board of Trustees meeting.
“Today I'm pleased to share our plans to resume in-person classes for the autumn semester,” Drake said. “This will include a combination of the use of appropriate face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, limited density in indoor spaces, control of the flow of traffic into and around buildings, continued employee teleworking when possible, testing, symptoms tracking and contact tracing. We'll developing an approach to teaching and learning that combines in-person and distance methods, and our academic calendar will be adjusted accordingly.”
Specific guidelines for the fall semester “will be announced in the coming weeks based on guidance from state and local health authorities and recommendations of the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup of the university's COVID-19 Transition Task Force,” per a news release from Ohio State following Wednesday's meeting.
As for this year's Ohio State football season, Drake said the university's “hope and intention is to safely have a football season, with an audience spaced out in our stadium, but we haven't made any final decisions.” The football team is set to resume voluntary workouts at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and Schumaker Complex on Monday, and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said last month that the university of modeling for the possibility of hosting 20,000 to 50,000 fans per game in Ohio Stadium this fall.
Ohio State's fall semester was originally set to run through Dec. 17, with autumn commencement set for Dec. 20. Drake said the date and format for autumn commencement will now be announced at a later date.
The university's plan for fall semester mirrors that of many other schools who are also planning to conclude in-person classes before Thanksgiving this fall, with the concern that students going home and then returning back to campus could lead to a COVID-19 outbreak. Ohio State will not have a fall break this year.
Ohio State had already canceled all of its in-person classes for the summer semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per Wednesday's announcement, Ohio State will implement a voluntary pilot testing program for students, faculty and staff who are returning to campus early as part of the university's phased return, including health professionals, researchers, student-athletes, marching band members and other students in the performing arts. The results of that pilot program will be used to inform decisions about broader testing for the fall semester.
The university will reduce population density in residence halls this fall, and will temporarily expand the housing exemption for second-year students who wish to live off-campus for the 2020-21 academic year. Ohio State will provide details to students who are living on campus about residence hall availability, changes to the move-in process (which will be staggered over two weeks) and physical distancing guidelines in residence halls and dining locations by June 19. The university will also provide isolation and quarantine housing for on-campus residents in accordance with guidance from the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup.
Ohio State will issue personal protective equipment packages to all returning students, faculty and staff.
University officials say they will be prepared to make changes to fall semester plans if necessary.
“One important thing to remember as a community is that what we know now may not hold a day from now or a month from now,” Amy Fairchild, dean of the College of Public Health and co-chair of the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup, said in a statement. “Conditions could change in ways that cause us to tighten up or relax. No one should be surprised by a change in recommendations – that is a reflection of rigorous and ongoing consideration.”