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Gradual reopening of JSU to be complete by June 1; in-person classes planned for fall

First openings Monday; students to start classes mid-August

JSU reopening

Jacksonville State University is slowly reopening most campus offices by June 1. The school plans to hold in-person classes beginning in August. 

Jacksonville State University administrative staff will start the incremental reopening of university offices Monday, the school announced, with plans to resume in-person classes in the fall.

Acting university President Don Killingsworth met with department supervisors Tuesday to coordinate the full return of school services after a two-month hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each supervisor is working through the Pandemic Ready checklist this week, a questionnaire that asks business owners to examine their ability to reopen, so they can spot potential trouble before workers return in full force. As little as 30 percent of each department’s staff will return next week, Killingsworth said Wednesday, depending on safety considerations. 

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“We’re allowing supervisors to bring in the amount of people they need to conduct business,” said Killingsworth. “They won’t be at 100 percent until June 1; it’s paramount that we get departments ready and that they can socially distance, and have 6 feet between their desks and each other.” 

Offices will be open during regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., each weekday starting Monday. 

Though university staff has worked hard from home, he said, not everyone is able to do their work remotely. Putting people back on campus should allow business to return to normal. 

Students and faculty, meanwhile, will remain off-campus, though some facilities will reopen, including the Recreation and Fitness Center and campus dining services. The recreation center will operate on its summer hours, Killingsworth said, and dining halls will follow state guidelines set forth for restaurants. 

School leaders plan to have students back in classrooms when the fall semester begins Aug. 18, Killingsworth said. Jeff Ryan, professor in the school’s Department of Emergency Management and a key figure in Calhoun County’s various COVID-19 response agencies, is working with a coronavirus task force to plan the fall return, according to Killingsworth. 

Attempts to reach Ryan by phone for more detail were unsuccessful Wednesday. 

Though the summer semester began Wednesday, students and faculty are all working online. The campus will be sanitized during the summer period, Killingsworth said, with a goal of having first-time freshmen able to have face-to-face academic advisory sessions in July. That plan, like opening in fall, is subject to change, depending on the course of the pandemic. 

“We’re taking every precaution that we can,” Killingsworth said, noting that staff members have their temperature taken as they come through the doors to the Bibb Graves Halladministration building. “We want to ensure the safety and protection of our people.” 

Other nearby colleges have also announced plans for resuming operations. 

Gadsden State Community College custodial and maintenance staff returned to the college’s campuses Monday to perform systematic sanitization, according to a release sent Wednesday afternoon. Information technology employees, meanwhile, have started installing new equipment for classrooms and labs, unrelated to the virus, while all other employees continue to work remotely. 

Martha Lavender, president of the college, in the release said cleaning and upgrades will continue through May 31. Should the state lift its safer-at-home restrictions and allow a statewide reopening, the statement reads, “Gadsden State will open on June 1 allowing students and visitors on campus in a modified capacity.” 

Modifications will include similar rules as those at JSU, with safe distancing in office environments and other viral prevention techniques. 

Students are expected to continue online courses for now, according to the release. Courses over the summer have been arranged to put hybrid courses — those that require in-person elements, like nursing and technical classes — in the summer’s latter half. 

Attempts to reach media relations staff at Auburn University and the University of Alabama were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon. 

However, the University of Alabama website’s COVID-19 FAQ page for students includes a plan to “work toward in-person instruction this fall on the regular schedule.” School leadership is also considering a return in late summer courses; a decision will be made by the end of May, according to the site. 

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.