Few things are certain about where students will find themselves at the start of the 2020-21 school year.
Both Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas have announced their intentions to hold at least some classes in-person come fall, but questions of logistics and scope are largely unanswerable.
TWU Provost Carolyn Kapinus, reached by phone Thursday, said one major consideration is what local school districts are doing come next semester. Not only are many university employees parents, but many students have kids to think of when it comes to scheduling their own education.
While university officials will take other universities’ plan into consideration, “one size does not fit all,” Kapinus said.
Across town at UNT, Provost Jennifer Cowley said workers were sorting through similar problems. She said an existing committee was able to track every potential classroom on campus. With that information, they will hopefully be able to assemble a comprehensive analysis of how many people each space could safely accommodate.
Both Cowley and Kapinus said officials are workshopping various scenarios for reopening in hopes that preparation can overcome uncertainty. Some of those plans include different proportions of classes moved online.
That could put the largest classes back online, but what is considered “large” is different for the two campuses. UNT has determined that lectures with more than 200 students will move online, and officials have reserved the ability to move that figure later on.
Cowley said the trick is finding the sweet spot by measuring class size, available locations and safety, with extra weight given to the final factor.
For the Pioneers, Kapinus said closer to 60-80 students would be a large class size.
Neither provost could provide an estimate of what percentage of courses would be held face-to-face, and each said university planning is dependent on the pandemic’s status closer to next school year.
Even before the pandemic, Kapinus said roughly one-third of TWU classes were held online, and the “asynchronous” learning offered over the past few weeks was helpful for some students. It was impossible to say, but she said it wouldn’t be surprising to see the percentage of online classes rise significantly come next school year.
As employees head back to work, each university is attempting a phased approach to ease back into full operations. At both UNT and TWU, student services will be some of the first groups to open back up for in-person help. Those groups include bursars, financial aid, tutoring, etc.
At this point, each university has a similar approach to bringing homebound employees back to campus over June and July in hopes of having a serviceable workforce ready for the start of the semester in late August. Student jobs are projected to return to UNT and TWU as more departments head back to work.
“We really missed having our students and faculty and staff on campus,” Cowley said.